On Aug. 9, the Independent received an email from City Council President Keith King in response to questions about Council subcommittees failing to keep meeting minutes ("Subbing out," News, Aug. 21).
King copied the entire Council on that message, prompting Councilor Don Knight to email everyone back, including the Indy, warning about "the need to avoid the slippery slope we have been getting into with 'reply alls' lately that could be construed as electronic meetings."
His concern is well-founded. The Open Meetings Law defines a meeting as "any kind of gathering, convened to discuss public business, in person, by telephone, electronically, or by other means of communication" attended by a quorum or three or more elected officials, whichever is fewer. Emails shared among all Council members that discuss public business are technically meetings, which requires that 24 hours' notice be given, the public be invited in, and minutes be kept, depending on the circumstances.
Knight's comments led the Indy to submit an open records request Aug. 16 asking for emails among Council members from July 29 through Aug. 10. The city provided a cost estimate of $130, but later modified the price to $370 "due to the unforeseen amount of emails that are currently being gathered."
Unwilling to pay $370 and unsure that a narrower request would yield useful information, we decided to drop it.
There's no guarantee the city will provide everything it's asked for, anyway. In early August, the Indy asked for all emails sent to firefighters by newly hired fire chief Chris Riley. We asked Riley to do the same. Riley produced five more emails than did the city, which relies on the honor system in asking employees to turn over emails when requested by the media or public.