SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - State Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has filed an advisory opinion criticizing the city of South Bend for taking three years to respond to a lawyer’s request for emails related to the city’s housing authority.
The records were requested in March 2012 and released last month. The attorney, former congressional Green Party candidate Andrew Straw, had filed a complaint with the state in the interim.
Straw was seeking emails regarding Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s appointment of members to the South Bend Housing Authority board on behalf of multiple clients in a sexual harassment case, the South Bend Tribune (https://bit.ly/1FTE3ak ) reported.
In his complaint, Straw accuses the city of violating the Access to Public Records Act, which requires agencies to respond to records requests in a “reasonable” timeframe.
Britt, who provides advice, assistance and education concerning the state’s public access law, agreed with Straw in his opinion dated Friday.
“Simply put, this request has languished for years,” Britt wrote. “Three years to respond to a public records request without producing any of the records is well outside the scope of a ‘reasonable’ timeframe.”
But because Straw’s complaint was filed outside the 30-day statute of limitations, Britt cannot issue a “conclusive determination,” his opinion said.
“However, if I were to do so, I would have stated the city has not acted in compliance with the APRA,” he wrote.
Britt determined that the city “abandoned its duty to respond to (the) request in 2013 at the very latest,” more than a year before the complaint was filed by Straw.
In an official response to Straw’s complaint, the city said it wasn’t notified about the outstanding request.
“Mr. Straw never informed the city that his APRA request was still outstanding,” attorney Paul Singleton wrote. “Therefore, the PAC should dismiss the complaint.”
Britt said it wasn’t Straw’s responsibility, or that of any other requestor of records, to remind a public agency of a request. However, Straw should’ve filed the complaint sooner, he said.
Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com
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