County, city committees: Open Door Law is a numbers game

Two three-person committees were disbanded by the Monroe County council last Tuesday. One was an “executive committee” established at the start of the year.  The other was a “COVID‐19 budgetary and fiscal review committee” created at the end of March.

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A seven-member county council is a governing body under Indiana’s Open Door Law, and a three-member committee can be, too, if it’s appointed by the council  and it’s been delegated authority “to take official action upon public business.”

Councilors aren’t against the idea of subsets of Monroe County’s fiscal body working on public policy issues. But they want to avoid inadvertent violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law (ODL).

Councilors received a five-page memo, dated April 27, from the county’s legal department  with an overview of the ODL requirements and exemptions.

Last Tuesday’s vote made it about a month after the memo was issued, when the council decided to dissolve the two committees. But one member of the budgetary committee, Marty Hawk, had already resigned—around the time the memo was given to councilors.

Several new committees were established by Bloomington’s city council at the start of the year, on a 5–4 vote. It generated enough controversy that councilmembers continue even now on occasion to conduct implicit debate about the existence of standing committees, when they’re deliberating on other topics.

Do the county council’s committees pose risks for ODL violations that the Bloomington city council’s new standing committees don’t? Not inherently. But the numbers work against the county council and for the city council when it comes to ODL violations. Continue reading “County, city committees: Open Door Law is a numbers game”