Public Records Request (FOIA)
Indiana law provides powerful tools for citizens to expose extremist behavior by those we elect and hire to represent the interests of parents. We offer this memorandum to assist parents, and other citizens, in obtaining information necessary to fully inform the public about the activities of the Carmel Clay School Corporation, the CCS School Board, and their employees and agents. Unify Carmel believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The Indiana Access to Public Records Act, provides extremely broad rights to citizens to learn about the government-related activities of those who work for us. The laws defines as accessible “public records” nearly any record created in the course of government-related action by a “public agency,” including the Carmel Clay School Corporation and any subdivision of it.
A related law, the Open Door Act, forbids any governing body of a public agency (including the Carmel Clay School Board) from conducting any business except at a forum open to the public, where any member of the public may both observe and record, subject to a few narrowly-defined exceptions. Thus, for example, email or text exchanges that constitute or relate to conducting business are potentially illegal under the Open Door Act, and public access to such exchanges for any purpose, including enforcement of the Open Door Act, is required by the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.
Any person may make any request, or enforce the rights of the citizenry, under both these laws.
The State of Indiana employees a Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, to assist citizens in exercising their rights under these laws (https://www.in.gov/pac/about-us/what-we-do/). The Public Access Counselor does not assist directly in preparing information requests, but publishes an extensive guide (https://aimindiana.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Indiana-Public-Access-Laws-PAC-Handbook.pdf) and offers a statutorily-required method for filing complaints about violations by public agencies or governing bodies of these laws (https://www.in.gov/pac/files/Guide_to_Filing_a_Formal_Complaint.pdf).
Making Information Requests under the Access to Public Records Act
No public agency may refuse to honor a public records request, as long as the request is made with “reasonable particularity.” The public agency may not charge a fee for the service except a small fee in very limited circumstances. (If you make a request of CCS and they attempt to charge a fee or to otherwise condition or limit your rights, please contact us immediately.) The public agency may charge a modest fee for physical photocopies made, but is required to provide electronic records if they are available. The public agency may not unreasonably delay and may not plead that other business is more important or the cause of an unreasonable delay.
Text messages and similar communications are explicitly subject to the Act. However, requests for correspondence should identify a named sender, named recipient, a time frame of six months or less, and include a particularized subject matter or search terms. If the public agency does not find the request to have the required reasonable particularly, the Act requires the agency to work with the requester to help the requester clarify what records he or she is seeking.
No specific format for the request is required. The easiest way to make a request is to use the portal created by the Carmel Clay School Board, https://www.ccs.k12.in.us/services/community-relations. Alternatively, or in addition to ensure prompt attention, a letter or email can be sent to the Superintendent, and copied to the Corporation’s attorney, Andrew Manna at Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim ([email protected]). Sample language to use is below:
“Pursuant to Indiana Code § 5-14-3-3, I request from the Carmel Clay School Corporation (the “Corporation”), for each of the items listed below, the prompt delivery of copies, or to allow me to make copies, as outlined in the Indiana Code § 5-14-3-3(b) (1) and (2). Please note that Indiana Code § 5-14-3-3(d), if any of these records are maintained in electronic form, you are obligated to make them available to me in that form, and you may send those to my email address, ___________________.” [Insert list of items desired.]
Use of Information
We strongly encourage citizens to use the Public Records Act to inform themselves, and to inform the community. If you submit a request and obtain information you believe is relevant to the activities of Unify Carmel, please email it to us at [email protected]
Unify Carmel, Inc.
An Indiana nonprofit