Ivy Tech violates spirit of open meetings law
Thursday, January 09, 2014 10:00 AM
It may not be illegal, but Ivy Tech Community College's board should drop its practice of posting executive sessions with a vague reference to exclusions in the state's open meetings law.
Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, in an informal response to a South Bend Tribune request, has criticized the trustees' frequent practice of indicating that their closed sessions would be used for discussion of "some or all" of a list of nine allowed topics.
The nine items generally cited since 2012 are: litigation, security systems, purchase of property, safety measures, prospective employees, alleged misconduct, classified records, job performance and board training.
Britt's advisory opinion is that the practice of picking and choosing from such a list does not conform to the law's spirit of transparency, although it's not specifically prohibited.
Indiana's open door law extends some two dozen provisions for public bodies to deliberate in private when that may be in the best interest of the public.
Final action must be taken at a meeting open to the public.
Indiana, just like many other states, also requires public bodies that do go into executive session to cite what specific provision of law justifies closing the doors.
The intent is to keep board members focused on a legitimate topic, rather than to open the way for conversation about whatever subjects are more comfortably handled out of the public eye.
Last week, Ivy Tech state board chair Steve Schreckengast, of Lafayette, issued a statement saying the board has not violated open door law and would continue to follow standard policy with its postings.
That doesn't give us a lot of reason to hope the board will change its ways. But let's hope it does. Hoosiers deserve clear communication from trustees about what exact concerns they are discussing behind closed doors.