Westfield official, on behalf of the CICEO, at first denies, then discloses requested public record

On September 25th, a new group calling itself the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials, along with the Urban Land Institute/ Indiana Chapter, sponsored a presentation on water quality and quantity planning and policy at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. CICEO is a group comprised of mayors and officials from 18 central Indiana municipalities. The presentation by Dr. Deborah Swackhamer from the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center can be seen at the following link:

http://indianapolis.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=10513

At about 5 minutes into the video, Lebanon’s mayor, Huck Lewis, in his opening remarks, noted that a new reservoir has been proposed in Madison County, declaring that he considers it a great idea and that he hopes it gets done, and that it would have a major impact. Some in the audience were chagrined by the pronouncement because very little critical review of the idea has been performed, and very little data or analysis on impact or feasibility has been compiled and publicly presented.

On September 29th, I asked the conference registrar, the Westfield Mayor’s executive assistant, for a copy of the registrations including the contact information. She declined, citing a third-patty’s opinion, presumably the ULI, that the requested records contained personal information that they would not want to be shared. I responded with the following email which argued that the records were indeed public. Fortunately, on October 3rd, she provided the requested contact information without further resistance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hello Anne,

I assumed that it was you and your office which created the list since you were the point-of-contact registrar for the conference. Did you not create a list of registrants? What other group are you referencing?

If you solicited and received contact information from the registrants, I believe those would constitute disclosable public records under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

Considering the highly inappropriate enthusiastic endorsement by Lebanon Mayor and water planning chair Huck Lewis, in his opening remarks, of a preliminary, and controversial, planned water supply reservoir on White River in Madison County — just before the invited expert (Dr. Swackhamer) urged, in part, a comprehensive and inclusive water planning process for this complex subject matter — it’s clear that the work of CICEO’s nascent Regional Water Planning group, and the ultimate public interest, would benefit from an open process and a broad participation.

In my opinion, there is no legitimate reason to operate in secrecy or beyond public participation and review. What is the public to make of a group which so blatantly prejudges and pre-ordains the outcome of such a complex water supply issue before any data is made available and vetted, and, ironically, immediately before the group’s invited policy expert took the podium to urge a comprehensive and inclusive evaluative process?

Would you please consult your legal counsel for a review of this request? If need be, I could file an official public records request for the information if that would help to ripen the request.

Clarke Kahlo
~~~~~~~~~
On Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 2:14 PM, Anne Cotham wrote:
Clarke,

I consulted with the group who created the list of attendees and they advised that for the personal privacy of each individual, we cannot release their contact information.

Anne Cotham
Executive Assistant
Mayor’s Office
317.804.3015

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At several points over the past several months, agencies and organizations seeking to expand public water supplies have blocked public access to information and the public process. This is unfortunate because it destroys the trust that the public agencies and their allied groups are really operating in the public interest. It will probably not be the last such anti-public example.

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