Friday, July 27, 2007

City Council Lockout Precedent Is in My Favor

Marcia Oddi at the Indiana Law Blog has listed several prior opinions related to citizen lockouts. One that particularly caught my eye was issued by the former Public Access Counselor Karen Davis regarding a school board meeting in Perry Township:
If the Board did not hold its meeting in a room adequate to accommodate a substantial number of persons as has been the Board’s recent experience, this could constitute a violation of the Open Door Law’s requirement that the public be permitted to observe and record the meeting. On February 12 there were a substantial number of persons who had to observe the meeting from another room. It is not clear from the facts whether the video equipment allowed for all to observe, and whether the audio was clear enough for those present to hear the Board and to record the meeting. In addition, I note that providing video or audio of the meeting is but a substitute for actual attendance in the same room as the Board. Providing audio or video has been approved in circumstances where the Board had posted a notice for a particular room but had to accommodate a larger crowd than it could have anticipated.

Here we have the public access counselor saying that it could be a violation of the Open Door Law if the board didn't hold the meeting in a room that would accommodate the crowd that is typically present at such meetings. That is CLEARLY the case in my complaint as the overflow room has been used in the past but wasn't in this case when the final Harrison Square vote (among other hot topics) was going to take place. It simply cannot be argued with any legitimacy that the board could not have anticipated the crowd size at the July 24th city council meeting.

The PAC also says that while audio and video were present in this board's overflow room, that can still only be considered a substitute for actual access. Readers should note that in MY complaint the citizens weren't even provided video and audio - we were locked out entirely.

And finally the PAC ends her statement with a passage that could be applied VERBATIM to my complaint:
Here, the Board was aware that the interest in the meetings ran high, and decided to revert to the Board room with full knowledge that the attendance would likely greatly exceed the size of the Board room. Even if the Board did not violate the letter of the Open Door Law, I find that the Board’s action to move the meeting to its regular Board room did not conform to the spirit of the Open Door Law

I would challenge anyone to try and argue that the statement above could not be directly applied to the July 24th city council meeting...

(H/T: Mitch Harper)

3 comments:

Jennifer Jeffrey, Chair LPAC said...

The microphones INSIDE the room were not adequate either.

A point was made by one of the councilmen or someone at the front of the room to ask can everyone hear.

We said "NO" and nothing was done about it.

Parson said...

Did you see this comment over at Fort Wayne Observed,

"I apologize for the crowded room last night - we did not expect the crowd -
we're not perfect but we try!
Sandy Kennedy"

Sounds like they didn't know Harrison Square and the smoking ban was a big deal and people might show up at the meeting. They aren't perfect after all.
/end sarcasim

LP Mike Sylvester said...

I will be interested to hear how Kevin Knuth responds to this post...

Mike Sylvester