County meeting was illegal, access counselor confirms
Saturday, October 19, 2013 4:59 AM
Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has upheld his advisory opinion that the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners violated the state's Open Door Law by discussing plans for a new animal shelter during an executive session.
Hanover resident Warren Auxier submitted the complaint to the state office last month after the meeting, which was held in early September.
A ruling on the matter already had been released last week, but the decision was revisited because neither the Commissioners nor County Attorney Wil Goering received the initial complaint or request for a response from the access counselor. An incorrect email address printed on the Commissioners' letterhead stationery was used by Auxier on his complaint to the access counselor.
In his response submitted to the Public Access Counselor on Thursday, Goering said the Commissioners used an executive session on Sept. 6 to discuss the job performance of Jefferson County Animal Shelter Director Jenny Slover. Part of that conversation involved a proposal for a new or updated shelter. The Commissioners had asked Slover to look into a feasibility study of remodeling the current facility along with her plan for building a new facility, Goering wrote.
"A significant part the discussion centered around suggesting Jenny Slover work on a remodeling plan to compare with a plan for building a new facility," the response said. "No final decisions were made on any issue and no votes were taken."
Goering said given that no official action took place, the Commissioners saw the discussion of the shelter as an extension of Slover's job performance discussion. He added that the discussions did not include any new business that had not been presented to the public before.
In his advisory opinion released Friday, Britt wrote that any discussion of animal shelter is not permitted under the state statute.
"Their response includes the subject matter of the executive session including a discussion of plans for new animal shelter. It matters not that those issues were already discussed in an open meeting. Any deliberation regarding anything beyond the scope of (the exemptions of the statute) is a violation."
Goering said the board is disappointed with the counselor's decision and maintained that the discussions did not violate the Open Door Law.
"It's very clear that we were only doing what is under the provisions of the statute," Goering said.