Citizens Action Coalition * Common Cause Indiana * Energy & Policy Institute
For Immediate Release Contact: William R. Groth, Esq.(317) 353-9363
April 15, 2015
Indiana House Republicans violating Public Record Laws
Caucus Claims “exemption”, lawsuit filed in Marion County Court
INDIANAPOLIS — Citizens Action Coalition (CAC), Common Cause Indiana, and the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) filed a lawsuit today in Marion County Circuit/Superior Court against the Indiana House Republican Caucus and State Rep. Eric Koch (R, Bedford) for violating the Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA). The groups are asking the Court to declare that Rep. Koch and the Caucus are subject to APRA, which the GOP legislators have denied, and to order disclosure of correspondence between Rep. Koch and utility companies regarding solar energy issues.
The Energy & Policy Institute (EPI) submitted public records requests on January 16, and February 2, 2015, to obtain copies of correspondence between Rep. Koch, Koch’s staff, and the investor-owned utility companies operating in Indiana, along with other additional companies and organizations, including the Edison Electric Institute. The public records requests were specifically regarding the now dead HB1320, the “rooftop solar” bill sponsored by Rep. Koch.
“The Edison Electric Institute and the electric monopoly utilities that they represent have declared war on customer-owned rooftop solar in statehouses throughout the country,” stated Matt Kasper, fellow with EPI. “We believe the people of Indiana have a right to know if these special interests were involved in any way with the legislative process or the drafting of HB1320."
On both occasions, Jill Carnell, Chief Counsel for the House Republican Caucus, denied the requests, citing the case of Masariu v. The Marion Superior Court No.1.
Ms. Carnell wrote:
“The Indiana Supreme Court determined that it would not intervene in the internal affairs of the legislative branch of government and that it is up to the legislative branch of government to decide its own internal procedural rules related to the release of records…because Masariu permits it and because our House tradition supports it, I am denying your request for the correspondence you requested.”
Following these two refusals to produce the requested records, a complaint was filed with the Indiana Public Access Counselor (PAC) against Rep. Koch and the Caucus claiming violations of APRA. The PAC issued an opinion March 6, 2015 that concluded “…it is the Opinion of the Public Access Counselor that the Indiana General Assembly is subject to the Access to Public Records Act.” The PAC stated that if the APRA requests were “resubmitted with reasonable specificity, the Caucus would need to identify the non-disclosable records containing work product and produce the information which does not contain work product.”
As a result of the PAC opinion, EPI along with CAC submitted a third records request on March 9, 2015, seeking similar records, this time with more specificity as recommended by the PAC. The Caucus again denied this request on March 16, 2015, stating the same exemption from APRA claimed in the earlier denials. The Caucus also opined that the request was “was lacking in specificity and sought ‘work product’ of the Indiana General Assembly.” The Caucus failed to identify the non-disclosable records as recommended by the PAC.
On March 23, 2015, EPI and CAC filed a second complaint with the PAC, who, on April 1, 2015, issued a second advisory opinion in which he found that “you have seemingly satisfied the elements of specificity considered to be reasonably particular. Your request appears to meet the standard set forth by the APRA.”The PAC continued and stated;
“The intent of the APRA is to foster trust and good faith between the public and the government. It is a safeguard for accountability and stewardship for civil servants. I am confident the General Assembly strives to espouse those virtues. As Indiana Public Access Counselor, I humbly and respectfully request the Caucus reconsider its position on the blanket inapplicability of the Access to Public Records Act and treat public records requests in a manner consistent with the spirit of transparency and openness.”
“After reviewing the opinions of the PAC, we decided to join this complaint,” said Julia Vaughn, Policy Director of Common Cause Indiana. “We believe the Caucus has violated the Indiana APRA for unilaterally rejecting these attempts to obtain the public records on the basis that the law does not apply to the Indiana General Assembly. Providing the public with information regarding the affairs of government is an essential function of a representative government.”
A copy of the complaint and related documents are available upon request.
Matt Kasper, Fellow, Energy & Policy Institute, (630) 908-9615
Kerwin Olson, Executive Director, Citizens Action Coalition: (317) 702-0461
Julia Vaughn, Policy Director, Common Cause Indiana: (317) 432-3264
Gabe Elsner, Executive Director, Energy & Policy Institute: (202) 297-0145
About Energy & Policy Institute: The Energy and Policy Institute is a pro-clean energy think tank working to expose attacks on clean technology and counter misinformation by fossil fuel and utility interests.
For a summary of the events leading up to the filing of this lawsuit can be found at: