Thursday, June 25, 2015
Ind. Gov't. - More on "House brings in lawyer for fight over records"
Supplementing Niki Kelly's must-read Fort Wayne Journal Gazette story from yesterday ("House brings in lawyer for fight over records"), Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal&Courier today has a long column titled "$440/hour to defend this guy’s secrets" that begins:
Here’s what you get for $440 an hour these days: An Indiana House determined to keep secrets, all on your dime.Further on in the long column detailing how we got to now:
The latest episode in just how far Indiana legislators will go to prove they are above the state’s open records laws twisted down a new hole with this week’s revelation that they’d hired outside counsel to help the cause.
As reported by Niki Kelly, Statehouse reporter for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, House Speaker Brian Bosma bypassed Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office — essentially on retainer in defense of the state in most cases — to bring in Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter. A part of the Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm, Slaughter makes that aforementioned $440 an hour.
What will it buy?
Specifically, Bosma is looking to tamp down open records requests into the emails of state Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, regarding House Bill 1320. The Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, the Energy and Policy Institute and Common Cause of Indiana have made two requests to inspect Koch’s emails related to the bill dealing with solar energy. They wanted to know how Koch’s personal investments and ties to the energy industry — pointed out in an Indianapolis Star investigation earlier in the session — might have fueled his motivation.
After being denied twice by the Indiana House Republican Caucus, the nonprofit groups sued.
In a larger, more important sense, Bosma is looking to preserve what lawmakers defended as “House tradition,” as the Indiana House Republican Caucus put it in when denying access to Koch’s email. That is, the Indiana House believes the Indiana Access to Public Records Law is for every branch of government other than the General Assembly.
When it comes to protecting that tradition, money is no object.
Closed door tricks are no object, either. Here’s the short course.
As reported in late May, again by the Journal Gazette’s Kelly [ Masariu General Assembly lacks policy on accessible records" - here in ILB], the House waited until after the 2015 session to update its handbooks with a revised definition, without bothering to commit it to an actual law.ILB: See also this ILB post from June 2nd.
The new House rules define the work product as “documents, notes or other writing or records, in any form, composed, edited or modified by members, staff or officers of the House and any communications that are made or received by means of electronic mail, voice mail, text messaging, paper or video audio recording or in any other form.”
In other words, everything — from deep-weed, game-changing records to text messages about specials at downtown Indianapolis food trucks. House members are immune, according to convenient House rules written by House leaders.