The Anderson Board of Aviation Commissioners broke the law on May 31 when a meeting time was changed at the last minute. We don’t think the board did that to evade public scrutiny, but the move did violate the law.

A special meeting was called for 5 p.m. May 31. When The Herald Bulletin reporter arrived, he was told that the meeting had been moved to 6:30 p.m. because a couple of members were going to be late. The reporter didn’t stay for the meeting, having another assignment to attend. He later learned that the aviation board meeting didn’t get started until 7 p.m. This meeting was advertised as starting at 5 p.m., and the board is bound by law to commence the meeting at that time.

The board members could’ve done this legally if they had convened the meeting at 5 and then delayed the start of it until 6:30, according to Hoosier State Press Association attorney Stephen Key. The board members would’ve told the public in attendance that the meeting would be later. The aviation board didn’t take that route; instead, it chose to just delay the meeting.

The board knew it had made a mistake. In retrospect, board attorney John Blevins said, it would’ve been better to start the meeting and postpone it. Nothing occurred during the meeting. If any decisions had been made, those decisions could’ve been challenged by the public.

Indiana’s open door law was enacted to make sure governmental entities are accountable to the people. The decisions they make must come under public scrutiny in order for there to be accountability.

Earlier this spring, there were two incidents concerning the Elwood Community Schools board violating of the open door law. In the second case, a school board member had filed a complaint with the state’s public access counselor. It was determined the violation was unintentional but nevertheless a violation.

Government entities need to know and practice this law. Too many of them don’t know the law and, as a result, violate it out of ignorance. But as the old saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

As we’ve done in the past, we urge all boards, councils and other entities to become familiar with the open door law. The public cannot be left out of decisions that affect them. In a representative democracy, citizens elect people to represent their interests. Those interests are in jeopardy when decisions are made in secret.

We at The Herald Bulletin will continue to be vigilant about these matters because we know citizens cannot always attend meetings of their representatives. They need to know, however, when things are done wrong.

Since all of these entities have attorneys, information sessions on the open door law need to be held as to what the members can and cannot do when conducting public business. The more the members know about the law, the less likely they will be to break it.

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