SPENCER — An unannounced meeting of Owen County officials held last month at Chambers Smorgasbord to hear a proposal from a payroll company representative did not violate the Indiana Open Door Law.

While Indiana Code 5-14-1.5-1 requires government agencies to conduct meetings publicly and with prior public notice, there are exceptions, according to Hoosier State Press Association legal counsel Steve Key.

Among them: a provision that says elected officials can meet without public notice if the purpose is solely to carry out administrative functions related to routine activities and everyday internal management of the county.”Saying that the payroll is a routine function of county government and talking to a vendor about the services that could be provided and the cost, if that is the case, I can see an argument to be made that it could fall under the admin functions clause,” Key said.

Several citizens complained to The Evening World in Spencer that the meeting — attended by two county commissioners, three county council members, the county clerk and several other county officials — was not advertised.Key said there is no legal requirement to give the public notice of meetings focused on administrative functions but citizens have a right to be present. But since no public notice is necessary, finding out about the meetings is happenstance.

”What falls under ‘administrative function’ has always been vague, and it’s tough to know where the Legislature is drawing the line,” Key said. “But these administrative functions meetings are open to the public. They can’t be secret, but are just hard to find out about.”

In most instances, the state’s Open Door Law requires 48-hour advance public notice of meetings where a quorum of the elected members is present.
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