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Access Counselor Sides with CAB on Newspaper's Complaint
January 30, 2008 - The State Public Access Counselor ruled Monday that the Charles A. Beard School Board did not violate state law when it approved several personnel matters last fall without disclosing who was being hired or the positions that were being filled.
At its Nov. 20 meeting, the CAB School Board approved 12 personnel recommendations. While Vice President Wade Beatty's motion to approve personnel recommendations numbered "1 through 2(f) and also the volunteers" was unanimously approved by the board, at no time did the board identify who they had hired or their respective positions.
The Banner filed a formal complaint with the state's Public Access Counselor in December alleging the school board's November vote had violated Indiana's Open Door Law. The Banner argued that the school board had taken final action on these personnel matters "by reference to agenda number or item alone," something not allowed under the ODL.
Heather Neal, Indiana's current public access counselor, did not agree with The Banner. While she said CAB would have violated the law if it had simply referred to its meeting agenda item III(C), "Personnel Recommendations," when it voted, she said the reference to items "1 through 2(f) and also the volunteers" was to items on another document that was not an agenda.
"The document on which the personnel information is listed is not entitled 'agenda,'" Neal wrote in her opinion. "It is somewhat confusing that the term 'Consent Agenda Items' is listed on this document, but I agree with (CAB's attorney) that this is not an agenda. As such, it is my opinion the final action was not taken by reference to agenda number or item alone."
"If the Board had approved a motion on item III(C) with no further motion or reference to another document or list of employees, it is my opinion that would have been a final action with reference to agenda number or item alone," Neal continued. "But here the Board referred to another document containing a list of names and positions of those individuals to which the motion applied."
The PAC is expected to rule within the next two weeks on a complaint The Banner filed over CAB's censorship of copies of several e-mails it gave The Banner in late September. The PAC ruled in November that CAB had violated the Access to Public Records Act by censoring these e-mails without properly identifying its reasons for doing so. While CAB did finally provide its reasons for redacting, or blacking out, portions of the e-mails, The Banner's complaint alleges some of the redactions were improper and violated the APRA.
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