Sunday, August 26, 2007

Daniels Uses Loophole To Shield Reform Commission From Public View

Last Thursday, Advance Indiana commented on a Niki Kelly story in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in which she reported the real decisions of the Governor's Commission on Local Government Reform would be made behind closed doors and asked if that didn't violate Indiana's Open Door Law. In a shameless attempt to sidestep Indiana's Open Door Law, Gov. Mitch Daniels has apparently set up the Commission as an advisory group without issuing an executive order. By this simple step, the Governor permitted the group to conduct its work behind closed doors without public input. The Louisville Courier Journal's Lesley Stedman Weidbener writes:

The open-door law requires those agencies, commissions and boards to provide notice about their meetings, post any agenda and keep minutes of the proceedings. The public must be allowed to attend any meeting during which those groups receive information, deliberate, make recommendations, establish policy, make decisions or take final action.

But in this case, the governor's Commission on Local Government Reform is actually an advisory group, meaning it was created not to take any official action but to make recommendations to others for action.

Advisory commissions also can be required to meet in public -- but the law says that's only if they are "created by statute, ordinance, or executive order to advise the governing body of a public agency."

In this case, Daniels didn't use an executive order to create his commission, so it's not subject to the law . . .

Daniels said last week that he didn't instruct the group to deliberate in private and it's not clear whether he intentionally chose not to create it by executive order to avoid the open-meetings law.

Instead, Daniels said he's confident there will be plenty of public input on the issue.

"I trust Chief Justice Shepard and Gov. Kernan, the co-chairs, both of whom are extremely sensitive to the need for transparency and openness, to find the right balance here," Daniels said last week. "As in any such context, there will be the need for at least some private deliberations."

This is nothing short of outrageous. What these folks want to hide is the deliberations which lead them to make certain recommendations. They don't want the public to hear who and what influences them to make ultimate recommendations. If the taxpayers are funding the work of this Commission, then every bit of its work should be conducted in the open. Looks like Hillary's health care reform commission all over again.


Wilson46201 said...

hmmm ... more like Dick Cheney's Energy Commission... total, paranoid secrecy!

Anonymous said...

He's already got a rebellion. Now he wants it to be an armed one? Just keep passing us the ammo Mitch.