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Public access counselor reverses decision on Stellar UPDATED 6:45 p.m. Thursday
Updated on: 07.10.14

The Nashville-Brown County Stellar Communties committee is a governing body and is subject to all the provisions of the Open Door Law, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt said late this afternoon -- a reversal of his earlier opinion.

"Additional evidence has come to light which suggests my initial conclusion may have been erroneous," Britt wrote. "My determination was based on the town's assertion the committee was exclusive(ly) comprised of volunteers and they were not appointed in any manner by the presiding officer of a governing body. In short, they were not operating as a delegation or sub-committee of another public agency. They were simply an association of concerned citizens, even though many of its members happened to be public officials."

Britt's first opinion, issued June 23, was based on a complaint filed by attorney Wanda Jones, representing a group that wants to delay Nashville's Stellar application until more public input and study can be put into the projects.

On July 1, Jones filed a 27-page response to Britt's initial ruling, arguing that committee members were acting in their capacity as town and county officials and that the non-officials on the committee were "chosen" by Nashville Town Council President Bob Kirlin. She said the committee performed the functions of a governing body, including making recommendations and decisions on what projects the Stellar proposal would include.

In today's opinion, Britt agrees: "It is explicitly stated the town and county has 'chosen' the Stellar Community committee," he writes, about the town and county's Stellar letter of intent. "This indicates the committee was not formed organically by a group of volunteers as was suggested in the town's response to formal complaint 14-FC-109."

The local Stellar committee is "exercising an executive function of local government and taking official action of public business." he concludes. Therefore, it is subject to the Open Door Law which requires all meetings to be open to the public "in order that the people may be fully informed."

The second half of Jones' complaint centered on public records requests which she said were either unfulfilled, were only fulfilled by being directed to the town attorney and not through normal channels, or were fulfilled in a way that wasn't easily accessible.

Britt said the Access to Public Records Act does not prohibit the town from designating someone to fulfill records requests, and given the "history of contention between you (or your clients) and the town, it is not unreasonable to ask you to direct your requests to the town's attorney." But he also notes that "the technology used should not be so complicated to the point of being challenging to use," referring to Jones' complaints about being directed to a password-protected email account and a thumb drive to access requested documents. Some were later delivered to Jones' office.

Britt said Jones and her clients, the Concerned Citizens of Brown County, are entitled to at least one copy of each record they seek -- and that could be electronic, as long as the copy is "viable."

Impact on Friday's presentation

The state Stellar committee is scheduled to visit Nashville from about 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, starting and ending at Out of the Ordinary restaurant.

Concerned Citizens of Brown County said they were not allowed inside that gathering. They planned to show their nonsupport of this year's Stellar application outside the restaurant.

Britt's opinion, however, says that the Stellar committee is a public body required to open its meetings to the public.

Neither Kirlin nor Town Attorney James T. Roberts could be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Read Britt's ruling by clicking here.

Obituaries
See Full List »

John Jacob 'Jack' Gambold, Jr., 91
  Stepfather of Carol Skirvin of Nashville

Jolee Ragan Dufek, 6, Nashville
  Daughter of Jason and Krystal Dufek

Karolina Rose Spurgeon, 3 days old, Edinburgh
  Sister of Keirsten Dawn Spurgeon of Brown County

  • December 19
    Bingo
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North.
  • December 19
    Christmas sing-along at The Playhouse
    7:30 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 19
    Live band at dance barn
    6 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 19
    Live hip hop music at dance barn
    7 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 20
    Live band at dance barn
    6 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West
  • December 20
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 20
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • December 20
    'Gone Girl' at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 20
    Railroad museum features model Christmas trains
    1 to 7 p.m. BC RR Museum, 18 W. Three Story Hill Road, Fruitdale
  • December 21
    'Gone Girl' at the Playhouse
    1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • December 21
    Railroad museum features model Christmas trains´╗┐
    1 to 7 p.m. BC RR Museum, 18 W. Three Story Hill Road, Fruitdale
  • December 23
    Euchre
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • December 24
    Nashville government offices CLOSED
  • December 24
    Christmas Eve Communion service at Becks Grove church
    7 p.m. Becks Grove Christian Church, 8009 Becks Grove Road
  • December 24
    Candlelight service at Helmsburg church Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Brown County Community Church, 2370 Main St., Helmsburg
  • December 24
    Candlelight service set for Christmas Eve
    6:30 p.m. Country Gospel Music Church, 5181 State Road 46 East
  • December 24
    Cordry church hosts candlelight service Christmas Eve
    7 p.m. Church of the Lakes, 8844 Nineveh Road
  • December 25
    Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 26
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • December 26
    Brown County Government Offices CLOSED
  • December 27
    Bingo
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • December 27
    Live band at dance barn
    7:30 p.m. Mike's Dance Barn, 2277 State Road 46 West