Chesterton Tribune

Seminars on public access and open records to be held

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Hoosiers who want to learn about their legal rights to obtain public records or attend government meetings are invited to the kickoff of the second annual Public Access Seminar series on June 19 in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis session is the first in a series to be held around the state, in which citizens, government officials, and attorneys will be introduced to Indiana’s laws concerning public records and open meetings.

For attorneys, the sessions count as 2.0 hours of free Continuing Legal Education (CLE) but are open to the general public as well.

Last year’s inaugural Public Access Seminar series drew a combined 737 participants to the eight free training sessions and approximately one quarter of last year’s attendees were members of the general public—neither attorneys nor government employees. This year’s Public Access Seminar series is sponsored by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the Indiana Public Access Counselor’s Office, and the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA), while the local kickoff events on June 19 are also sponsored by The Indianapolis Star.

“Strong attendance at last year’s seminars by citizens makes it clear that Hoosiers want to know how their government officials make decisions and spend their tax dollars, but they need the tools to gain access to that valuable information,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said. “Government officials and their lawyers may need to brush up on their obligations to keep meetings open and records public and learn about the new legislation passed this year, so the free Public Access Seminar series is good training on transparency for both audiences.”

“Accountability is key to a functioning democracy,” added Steve Kay, executive director and general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association. “The state’s public access laws give citizens the ability to know what government officials and employees are doing or contemplating with taxpayer dollars.”

On Tuesday, June 19, the public will have two opportunities to attend a free Public Access Seminar session in Indianapolis:

•10 a.m. to 12 noon in the auditorium of the Indiana Government Center South, 402 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.

•6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the offices of The Indianapolis Star, 307 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis.

Attendees are asked to register to ensure adequate space is available. To register for either free session, contact the Attorney General’s Office at 317.233.6143 or register online at http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2840.htm

Attorneys who register and attend can qualify for 2.0 hours of free CLE.

At both the morning and evening sessions, experts will discuss citizens’ rights and officials’ responsibilities under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act and Indiana Open Door Law. The panelists also will discuss House Enrolled Act 1003—passed this year—which for the first time imposes fines on certain public officials who withhold public records or deny access to meetings: $100 for the first violation and $500 for additional violations.

In addition to explaining the public access laws and requirements, the panelists will provide practical examples of how public records requests should be initiated by citizens and addressed by officials and attorneys. Audience members will have the opportunity ask questions.

The June 19 sessions in Indianapolis are the first in a series that again will take the training sessions around the state, through October. The rest of the seminars are evening sessions, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time, so that more working adults can attend. Registration for those events is at the same number and link above, and addresses of the seminar sites will announced soon for these additional cities and dates: South Bend, June 26; Bloomington, July 26; Sellersburg, Aug. 16; Auburn, Aug. 30; Logansport, Sept. 6; Washington, Sept. 20; Portland, Oct. 4.

 

 

Posted 6/15/2018