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Opening Arguments

In the no

Lots of buzz in the Indiana blogosphere (yes, we do have one) on the front-page Indianapolis Star story about public officials' violations of the state's public access laws.The consensus seems to be that officials are a bunch of scofflaws who generally ignore the toothless Office of Public Access Counselor. Masson's Blog takes the contrarian position that the story is a little overheated and the headline ("Keeping secrets") misleading. The officials are just trying to do their jobs (which generally are not defined to include public access to information), with too little funding and staffing.

Not remarked upon so far is the story's revelation that half of those seeking relief from the counselor are ordinary citizens. That makes this more than an issue of pushy journalists vs. obstinate bureaucrats. People are actually trying to find out what their government is doing. It's also worth noting that, although sometimes people have to undergo the expense of suing, the officials in general end up doing what they're supposed to.

Even the Star story notes (or at least quotes someone who says) that Indiana public officials aren't being more secretive than they once were. It's just that people are more aware of the access laws and the counselor's office. And that's a good thing.

Not much will likely change unless the Legislature attaches some real penalties to violating the law, as some states are doing. Making the offending officials pick up the court costs would be a nice start.

Posted in: Hoosier lore


Fri, 10/14/2005 - 10:10am

Contrarian am I? I disagree.

Just joking. (And not very well, I might add.)