Thursday, December 15, 2005

Indiana ruling strengthens records law

In Indiana, a ruling by the state Court of Appeals this week in favor of a small-town weekly newspaper has bolstered public access to government records, according to a report by The Indianapolis Star. The court ruled that the paper, the Knightstown Banner, had a right to see details of a settlement that the town had reached with a former employee.

Town officials had kept secret most details of the settlement, contending that the town's insurance carrier, not the town itself, was party to the settlement, thereby excluding it from the public records law. A lower court had agreed with the town.

The Court of Appeals said:
"Knightstown focuses on the argument that the definition of public record does not include documents created by private individuals acting on behalf of a public agency. This distinction is without merit. There is no doubt that although Retained Town Counsel is a private individual, and not itself a public authority under [the law], he created, maintained, and retained custody of the settlement agreement as attorney for Knightstown, which is a public authority."
The full text of the decision is here.

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