Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 3, 2013

Strong stance for openness

THE ISSUE: Indiana’s new law allowing judges to fine public officials who break the state’s open-door laws.

OUR VIEW: It’s one officials new to public office should keep in mind as they begin doing the people’s work.

Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation that allows judges to fine public officials who deliberately flaunt public-access laws.

Our area’s newly sworn public officials should give the new law serious consideration.

The law allows a judge to levy a fine of up to $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for a repeat offender.

Indiana is actually late to the party. More than 30 states already allow civil or criminal penalties for public officials who intentionally violate their open-meetings and open-records laws. In some states, a violation can mean removal from office.

Indiana’s law allows only a fine, but the public official would at least be required to pay the fine out of his or her own pocket.

The law is intended to put some teeth into provisions giving the public and media the right to be notified of public meetings and to access public documents. Under the old law, someone denied access to a public document or government meeting had no recourse other than to take the case to court. This new measure gives public agencies greater incentive to resolve a dispute before seeing a judge.

The new law is not aimed at punishing people. It’s aimed at delivering a simple but critical message: This is the public’s business, and it should be conducted in public view.

Public participation is a crucial part of the American system of government. To be able to fully participate, members of the public have to be able to attend meetings. They have to be able to examine public documents.

Some lawmakers had complained the state’s public access law was burdensome. They had questioned whether tougher penalties for violating the law wouldn’t harm public officials who mistakenly break the law.

We didn’t buy that argument then, and we don’t buy it now.

This measure doesn’t target every official who fails to release a public record. It targets the so-called “bad apples,” who have been advised that a document is public record but who still refuse to release it.

Folks like that deserve to be fined.

This law puts real meaning in the provisions of the state’s open-meetings and open-records laws. It says to both public officials and average citizens that Indiana is serious about transparency in government.

It was an important message for lawmakers to send, and one officials new to public office should keep in mind as they begin doing the people’s work.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Vasicek: Celebrating Easter I have shared a few bits of Easter humor over the years, so I thought I’d start with a new one. Joseph of Arimathea was the wealthy Pharisee who is famous for helping to bury the body of Jesus. He procured the body, asking Pilate’s permission, and, w

    April 20, 2014

  • Public Eye: Was Turner the only one?

    CNHI Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden and other Statehouse reporters didn't get an answer as to why the House ethics committee hearing concerning State Rep. Eric Turner was postponed, but it now appears the committee will meet Wednesday. A note

    April 20, 2014

  • DAY: God trusted us with them Well, you heard about my wife and I, and our families from the past, so it is time for me to tell you about two of the prettiest girls I have ever known. They are our daughters Debbie and Patty. They are the greatest gifts from God that we have had i

    April 19, 2014

  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 16, 2014

    At the time the agenda for the April 7 commissioner meeting came out, I was happy to see that the neglected commissioner board appointments were finally going to be addressed. These appointments had been in limbo for months on end.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll