The Fort Wayne City Council did not violate the state’s open meeting law when people were denied access to a standing-room-only meeting, according to the state public access counselor.
Counselor Heather Neal wrote in an Aug. 24 letter that the council followed the law despite denying entry to its July 24 meeting to comply with fire code requirements.
Jeff Pruitt, a local resident, filed the complaint with the state July 25, saying people were denied entry to a highly critical meeting when the council voted to approve financing for the $120 million Harrison Square project and many tavern owners and workers came to testify about the city smoking ban.
Neal wrote that the state doesn’t have any case law on the issue, but other jurisdictions have refused to require public agencies to hold meetings in locations sufficient for every member of the public to attend.
“I further have no evidence the council knew or should have known the meeting room would not have accommodated the crowd for the July 24 meeting,” she wrote.
Pruitt said he was disappointed in the state’s decision and found it “laughable” that the council wouldn’t have known more space was needed for such an important meeting.
“It’s a sad day for citizens like me who want to see open government when the public access counselor doesn’t seem to be an advocate for open door law,” he said.
The council has been meeting in a smaller room this summer as its usual chambers are renovated. The regular chambers should be ready for use by next week.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
JG Covers PAC Opinion
Ben Lanka has a story in today's Metro section about the PAC's decision. I must say that I think it's completely unprofessional of the Public Access Counselor to send a copy of her opinion to the media before she sent it to me. While the JG received the opinion on Friday I still had not received a copy by Monday afternoon. At that point I e-mailed the PAC and this morning I received the opinion in my inbox - unacceptable.