« Courts - In light of the 4th Circuit opinion, North Carolina AG Roy Cooper makes statement | Main | Ind. Decisions - "When does a threat to blow your supervisor’s head off fall outside the scope of a state court’s jurisdiction? " »

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - Updating "Four Hoosiers filed suit Wednesday over an alleged Open Door violation by the Indiana State Board of Education"

That was the headline of this Dec. 5, 2013 ILB post, quoting a story by Niki Kelly of the FWJG, and including a copy of the complaint filed in Marion Superior Court. The issue was whether or not the members of the State Board of Education violated the open meeting law in agreeing to and ratifying by email a letter to legislative leaders, after the adjournment of an open meeting. See also a Dec. 6, 2013 FWJG editorial here.

Today the ILB obtained a copy of a 7-page order denying defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, signed July 24th by Marion County Superior Court No.4 Judge Cynthia Ayers. From the ruling:

Defendants next argued that even if Plaintiffs filing was not untimely, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings should still be granted because there was no "meeting" as defined in the Indiana Open Door Law. * * *

There is no Indiana case law on whether electronic communications fall within the meaning of the word "meeting" as defined in §2(c) of the ODL. Since the email circulated in this case did not qualify as a "serial meeting", the portion of the statute that mentions the use or exclusion of electronic mail is inapplicable. Therefore, in order for the Court to properly determine this issue while liberally construing the provisions of the ODL, a full examination of the facts and circumstances of the events in question is necessary. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied as to whether there was a "meeting" under the ODL.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is denied. The Stay of Discovery entered on April
21, 2014 is hereby vacated.

According to attorney William Groth, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, Eiler v. State Board of Education:
The import of this decision is that the case can return to the discovery stage, which means the BOE members will now be required to respond to the discovery we served upon them several months ago, including producing any emails discussing state business on their personal email accounts. Importantly, the Court squarely rejected the State’s argument that the email exception to the serial meetings section of the ODL precluded our argument that a “meeting” occurred when emails were sent or exchanged among the Board members at the request of and pursuant to the oversight of Ms. Fiddian-Green. Judge Ayers also correctly noted that the Court cannot determine whether an ODL violation occurred without examining all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance and signing of the letter to the legislative leaders in October of last year.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 28, 2014 07:16 PM
Posted to Indiana Government