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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - When is the Public Access Law not the law?

Apparently when the Public Access Counselor so determines. From p. 2 of a Dec. 30th, 2013 response to Formal Complaint 13-FC-336; Alleged Violation of the Access to Public Records Act by the City of Logansport:

By its own admission, you are correct the City failed to respond to your request within 24-hours of your in-person service. Technically, this is a violation of the letter of the APRA law because it took nearly 2 hours longer to acknowledge your request.

Similarly, I am confident traffic patrolmen on I-465 in Indianapolis regularly clock vehicles traveling 57 miles-per-hour in a 55 mile-per-hour speed zone. Indeed, this is a technical violation of the law, but rarely would such an infraction be enforced. If weather conditions were poor or if there were servicemen working on the roads near the infraction, I could postulate the offending speeder would be pulled over and perhaps given a citation. Likewise, if the information you have sought from the City was of immediate critical importance, I would also scrutinize the City’s actions more strictly. As it is, however, based on the information provided, I’m letting them off with a warning.

This is not to take lightly the crucial importance of disclosing public records in a timely fashion. In the same manner, I consider violations of the APRA to be especially detrimental to the public trust. But in this case I cannot consider the violation egregious. The Courts have spoken on similar Open Door Law issues and have used the term “substantial compliance”. While I refrain from adding that vernacular to APRA issues, this is as close as a public agency can come to being in substantial compliance with the law.

ILB: So if the statutory 24 hours does not really mean 24 hours, and 26 hours is close enough here, apparently, for government work, just when is the outer limit?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 2, 2014 04:35 PM
Posted to Indiana Government