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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Keep it open

When is a caucus more than a caucus? When the party caucusing also has a majority of the legislative body in question. And this isn't much of a defense:

Earlier this month, then-Allen County Democratic Party Chair Kevin Knuth wrote Didier asking him about the caucus. At the council meeting Jan. 8, Didier said during his four years in office, the GOP has always caucused before the first meeting of the year to make recommendations for appointments.

Just because the 5-4 council Republicans have gotten into the habit of such caucuses, that doesn't mean the meetings are good public policy or compliant with Indiana's Open Door Law. When the caucusing party is also the council majority, the "recommendations" in the private meeting are de facto policy decisions We can argue all day about whether that is technically a violation of the Open Door Law, but it certainly violates the spirit of the law.

There's been a little bit of posturing by council Democrats on this issue, especially by a certain member who is loquacious and aggressive, sensing he has an opportunity because he is facing a council president who is neither of those things. The Open Door Law doesn't have much teeth, so the practical consequence of all this high drama is zero. And even if the Republicans did everything by the book and out in the open, the results would undoubtedly be the same 5-4 votes.

But right is right -- this involves more than the partisans on council. Toothless though it be, the Open Door Law is meant to keep citizens as informed as possible about the workings of their government. We need to insist that our elected officials take it seriously, not find ways to get around it.


Kevin Knuth
Fri, 02/01/2008 - 11:17am

A few years back County Council had a "caucus" to discuss the new Wood Youth Center project.

At that time, EVERY COUNCIL MEMBER was a REPUBLICAN! So, really no need for a caucus.

Steve Shine admonished the council members and said that even if caucuses are legal, they are not right- the public's business should be done in the open.

However, he now defends the actions taken here. Go figure!

Leo, I agree that this is a borderline violation- I just do not see the need to do it behind closed doors when you have the MAJORITY anyway.