Most of the people I talk to see this as the #1 issue in the upcoming election - they simply don't believe (right or wrong) that local officials take their concerns seriously. Well this is one way to change things. The more citizens that become engaged in local politics the more seriously their issues and opinions will be taken. It might not seem so now, but the squeaky wheel does get the oil - or the boot I suppose.
I know there are others that see my complaint as a way to possibly void the bond financing vote that took place last night. I want to be clear - that was not my intention. But if other citizens want to use last night's lockout to further their own agenda - well that is their right I suppose. The text of my letter to the PAC is shown below:
Heather Willis Neal - Indiana Public Access Counselor,
On July 24th, 2007, the Fort Wayne City Council held their weekly public council meeting. There had been construction taking place in the usual council chambers so they moved to a much smaller meeting space. During previous meetings in this smaller room, the council has accommodated the overflow crowd by allowing them to watch the proceedings on television in an adjacent room.
Unfortunately, during the July 24th meeting, the adjacent room was being used for another meeting. Therefore, about 80-100 citizens were locked out - literally - of the city council meeting. Once the seats were filled, the doors were shut and there was no audio or video provided. The doors were also manned by the sergeant at arms and local police, and no one was allowed to go in without somebody coming out first. I personally asked the sergeant at arms who was responsible for the decision and the room scheduling and he informed me that it was the Fort Wayne City Clerk Sandy Kennedy.
I believe the city’s action clearly violated IC 5-14-1.5-3 (emphasis mine):
"Sec. 3. (a) Except as provided in section 6.1 of this chapter, all meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times for the purpose of permitting members of the public to observe and record them."
The meeting was not open for all of the public to observe and record as the doors were shut and citizens were not freely allowed to enter. While the meetings are broadcast on public access television there is no statute requiring citizens to own a television in order to observe and record these meetings.
This is my notice of formal complaint and I look forward to your response.