Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 8, 2014

Ivy Tech board notices called 'poor practice'


Kokomo Tribune

---- — SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ivy Tech Community College says it won't change its notices about private Board of Trustees meetings despite criticism from the state's public access counselor.

Access counselor Luke Britt said in an informal opinion that Ivy Tech was using a "poor practice" by issuing notices of executive sessions stating trustees will discuss "some of or all" of many subjects.

The notices generally list the same nine topics: litigation, security systems, purchase of property, safety measures, prospective employees, alleged misconduct, classified records, job performances and board training. The "some or all" wording in executive session notices has been used regularly since at least early 2012, the South Bend Tribune.

Britt wrote that he didn't believe Ivy Tech's notices complied with the purpose of the state's notification requirements for executive sessions, during which government boards may meet in private to discuss, but not vote on, certain topics.

"The regular use of a 'catch-all' notice is poor practice for a public agency when notifying the public an executive session will be held," he wrote.

"If all of the items on the agenda were to be discussed, then that would be acceptable, but to pick and choose from a list of topics does not conform to the spirit of transparency," Britt, an attorney appointed by Gov. Mike Pence, said in response to a request filed by the newspaper.

Ivy Tech state board chairman Steve Schreckengast said he supported the board's practice.

"In reviewing the situation it is clear that no open door policy law has been violated with the posting and I am confident that the board will continue to follow standardized legal posting as per state (statute)," he said in a statement. "We will continue to consider the various items we include on future executive committee agendas."

Ivy Tech has about 100,000 students at some 30 campuses where it offers two-year associate's degrees.

School spokesman Jeff Fanter said the board would continue to follow the state public access laws.

"We have consistently provided information on all areas that might be discussed in such executive sessions to be as transparent as possible," he said. "Our practice is the same with our public meetings, always transparent and providing as much information as possible."

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com