Thursday, November 28, 2013

Access Counselor Rules Citizens' Complaint Against Education Board Not Valid

After Glenda Ritz's suit against the state Board of Education was dismissed on the grounds that she lacked the legal authority to press it, a group of four citizens (including Ed Eiler) filed a complaint with the state's Public Access Counselor that echoed Ritz's suit. The complaint charged that the Board's crafting of a letter requesting that the Legislative Services office calculate school grades constituted a meeting held in secret in violation of the state's open door rules.

On Tuesday Public Access Counselor Luke Britt ruled that he could not "definitively" find a violation of the open door law; emailing doesn't count as participation in a gathering. But he warned that public agencies should avoid using email to take action: "Final decisions are meant to be open and transparent . . . The appearance of action taken which is hidden from public view is particularly damaging to the integrity of a public agency and contrary to the purposes of transparency and open access."

"In this instance the email exchange could be interpreted as a ratification of a final decision by vote,” Britt wrote. “I do not think it rises to that level but the perception of the public is of significant importance."

Read more from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette here.