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Indiana Open Door Law
The Indiana Open Door Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Title 5, chapter 14, statutes 1.5.1-8 of the Indiana code define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of lawsuits in Indiana. For more information go the page or go to Indiana sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
We do not currently have any pages on open meetings litigation in Indiana.
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for Indiana in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
"In enacting this chapter, the general assembly finds and declares that this state and its political subdivisions exist only to aid in the conduct of the business of the people of this state. It is the intent of this chapter that the official action of public agencies be conducted and taken openly, unless otherwise expressly provided by statute, in order that the people may be fully informed. The purposes of this chapter are remedial, and its provisions are to be liberally construed with the view of carrying out its policy."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a "meeting" is defined as a gathering of a majority of the governing body of a public agency for the purpose of taking official action upon public business. All meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies must be open at all times to permit members of the public to observe and record them.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- social or chance gatherings
- on-site inspection
- meetings organized by other parties which are devoted to better governments
- discussion of commercial prospects that do not include decisions
- orientation or training for new public officials
- administration of the oath of office
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any group or committee that possess executive, administrative, or legislative power of either the state or any political subdivision including all advisory boards created with the purpose of aiding those public bodies as well as any organization whose budget is reviewed by state agencies. The act specifically includes the Indiana gaming commission and the Indiana horse racing commission.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- Hospital or medical advisory boards
- agencies who receive public funds are exempt if they meet the following requirements
- fees are paid in exchange for goods or services
- the amount is not conditional on tax income
- the fees are negotiated by the public agency and the private corporation
- the agency is billed for the fees
While the Indiana Open Door Law seems to include state legislative bodies within its definition of public body, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in State ex rel. Masariu v. Marion Superior Court that they are unable to enforce the law against the legislature due to separation of powers considerations. The general assembly is also exempt from notice requirements found at Indiana Open Door Law 5-14-1.5-5(sec. 5).
Before a public meeting takes place, Indiana Open Door Laws, require a public notice of the date, time, and place of any meetings, executive sessions, or of any rescheduled or reconvened meeting, shall be given at least forty-eight (48) hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) before the meeting. This requirement does not apply to reconvened meetings (not including executive sessions) where announcement of the date, time, and place of the reconvened meeting is made at the original meeting and recorded in the memorandum and minutes thereof, and there is no change in the agenda. Public agencies are also required to notify all news agencies who have requested notification of meetings. Notice of regular meetings are to be posted once a year. The act allows for the calling of emergency meetings where life or property is threatened and immediate action must be taken. However, it requires that all news agencies who have requested notification to be notified of emergency meetings at the same time as the committee's members. Notification laws do not apply to the General Assembly.
All public meetings strictly forbid the use of secret balloting at all meetings that fall under the public meetings law statute.
The act also explicitly prohibits serial meetings, or meetings conducted in a series where a quorum was never present at one meeting but the collective meetings provided the group ample opportunity to deliberate about a certain issue.
The act requires that a public body take minutes of all meetings, including the time and place of the meeting, the members present, all subjects discussed and any votes taken.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
Final action cannot be taken at an executive sessions. Executive sessions may be held for the following reasons:
- permitted by federal or state statute
- Collective bargaining strategy
- Litigation strategy and the attorney client privilege
- security discussions
- purchase or sale of property
- industrial or commercial prospects
- Interviewing potential employees or considering their application files
- To discuss complaints and discipline of current employees
- To discuss records exempted under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act
- To train school board members
- To prepare or grade licensing examinations<
In the event of a violation, an individual must file suite within 30 days of the realization of the violation or prior to any bonds have been issued. If the court determines that the violation knowingly occurred, it can void any action take at the meeting given the following considerations:
- The extent to which the violation:
- affected the substance of the policy, decision, or final action;
- denied or impaired access to any meetings that the public had a right to observe and record; and
- Whether voiding of the policy, decision, or final action is a necessary prerequisite to a substantial reconsideration of the subject matter.
- Whether the public interest will be served by voiding the policy, decision, or final action by determining which of the following factors outweighs the other:
- The remedial benefits gained by effectuating the public policy of the state declared in section 1 of this chapter.
- The prejudice likely to accrue to the public if the policy, decision, or final action is voided, including the extent to which persons have relied upon the validity of the challenged action and the effect declaring the challenged action void would have on them.
- Whether the defendant acted in compliance with an informal inquiry response or advisory opinion issued by the public access counselor concerning the violation.
The Court may also award attorney fees to the plaintiff in the event of a violation and the defendant if the court deems the lawsuit frivolous.
State of Indiana
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Auditor of State | State Examiner | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Insurance | Director of Agriculture | Director of Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor | Chairman of Utility Regulatory Commission |