FOI Ombuds May Not Be Perfect, But Here Is Why They Beat Nothing Hands Down…

School officials deny access to information, and cite no exemption for doing so. In steps the access counselor…

After The Tribune filed a complaint with Indiana’s public access counselor, a School City of Mishawaka official said the district will now comply with a legal requirement to provide the media with certain public records before school board meetings.

At Superintendent Terry Barker’s direction, Mishawaka schools has consistently declined to provide The Tribune with what’s known as the “personnel report” prior to school board meetings.

The document lists employee hirings, resignations and leaves of absences, among other things, that the board is asked to vote upon.

The Tribune previously requested that Barker cite the legal code that supported his refusal to provide the report and his requirement that The Tribune say why it wanted the records. Barker didn’t offer legal support for his position.

Joseph Hoage, Indiana’s public access counselor, issued an opinion stating Mishawaka schools violated the Access to Public Records Act by refusing to cite a specific exemption authorizing the withholding of the record and by requiring a reason for requesting the record.

In a letter to the public access counselor’s office, Barker wrote, “Based upon this clarification, the personnel report will be provided to the news media along with customary items that are part of the board meeting packets distributed.”

When contacted Thursday, Barker said he wasn’t trying to be difficult by previously denying The Tribune’s regular requests for the document; he simply thought it was an exception to the records that are legally required to be released.

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