The Open Door Law of Indiana states that "…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." Indiana Code § 5-14-1.5-1.
General rule. All meetings of the majority of a governing body of a public agency, such as a council or board, are subject to the Open Door Law. All meetings must be open to the public unless the law expressly permits an executive session (private meeting not open to public).
Committees. If the presiding officer of the governing body or the governing body appoints a committee, the meetings of the committee must be open to the public unless the law expressly permits an executive session.
Exceptions. In order to have an executive session, the meeting must fall into one of the recognized exceptions - these are exceptions to the general rule of openness:
Final action. When an executive session is held, any vote on a motion, proposal, resolution or ordinance must be taken at a meeting open to the public. No secret ballots are ever permitted.
Public notice. Notice of the date, time and location of any public meeting or executive session must be posted at least 48 hours in advance outside the principal office of the governing body or the meeting location. The notice must also be sent to any media that have requested such notice by January 1 of that calendar year. This 48 hour period does not include Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays.
The notice for an executive session must state the meeting's subject matter by specific reference to the provision permitting the meeting to be held as an executive session under the Open Door Law.
Right to speak. The Open Door Law permits members of the public to attend, observe and record the business of a governing body—there is no "right to speak" provided in the law, but opportunities to speak may be provided at the discretion of the governing body.
Memoranda and minutes of meetings. Memoranda must be kept of each meeting. Generally, memoranda include the date, time and place of the meeting, members present or absent, the general substance of matters discussed or decided, and a record of votes taken, by individual if a roll call vote was taken.
Memoranda must be made available for public inspection and copying within a reasonable period of time after the meeting. Minutes, if any, are to be open for public inspection and copying.
The requirements for maintaining minutes and memoranda are modified as to executive sessions. The memoranda and minutes of an executive session must identify the subject matter considered by specific reference to the provision permitting the meeting to be held as an executive session, and certify by statement in the memoranda and minutes of the governing body that no other subject matters were discussed in executive session.
Accessibility of meeting facilities. All meetings that are open to the public must be held in rooms/buildings that are accessible to persons with disabilities.
Violation of Open Door Law. If a court finds that a governing body has violated the Open Door Law, the action taken may be enjoined, declared void or subject to a declaratory judgment, depending upon the violation. In certain cases, attorneys' fees may be awarded, provided the State Public Access Counselor is contacted first at (317) 233-9435 or 1-800-228-6013.
If you have been denied access to a public meeting, or are not sure whether a private meeting of a governing body may have been held in violation of the Open Door Law, check with your attorney, the Public Access Counselor for the State of Indiana, or the City-County Public Access Counselor.
These points are meant to be a general guide to Indiana's Open Door Law (Indiana Code 5-14-1.5). Each person's circumstances, however, will be subject to the specific provisions of the Law.