Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rules Committee Reviews Prop 303 & 378

The Rules Committee of the Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council met last night with Prop 303 and 378 on its agenda. The whole meeting was 34 minutes long and can be viewed in the WCTY archives here - click on 'video' for November 4, 2009. The Rules committee is Chaired by Councillor Lutz and Councillors Malone, Pfisterer, Plowman, Cockrum, Mansfield, and Gray were members of the committee present last night. Also in attendance, but not members of this committee were Councillors Coleman and Oliver.

Prop 303 is Councillor Coleman's Proposal that would require the internet posting of all contracts involving the City or County government. This proposal was amended such that contracts must be posted within 14 days of being approved, there must be a search function for the postings, corporate counsel must review all contracts before posting and redact any information not considered public record by state law, all existing contracts going back to January 1, 2008 must be posted within 180 of the effective date of the ordinance, and the effective date of the ordinance will be January 1, 2010. The search feature should include searching by city department or agency, vendor name, and the like. Redactible information would include personal information such as social security numbers and is an action anticipated to be necessary very infrequently, given that contracts rarely contain non-public record information. It was made clear that this Proposal would not include contracts of the various Municipal Corporations. So the CIB, Airport, Library, and Health & Hospitals are not affected by Prop 303. The reason why escaped me, but I did gather that it was based on state law.

Public testimony included a comment by a fellow named Steven Hoback (as I heard his name) who suggested that interlocal agreements, which are not legally considered contracts, also be included in the ordinance. I presented McANA position of support. And last but not least, Keith Robinson of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government presented that organizations position of support. He also suggested that the Council take the ordinance one step further and post proposed contracts online so that the public can review them before the final decision is made to sign off on them. Councillor Coleman indicated he would be working on pulling both suggestions into the framework of Prop 303.

At the end of the discussion, Prop 303 was not voted on, but rather, postponed until the Rules Committee's November 17 meeting. This will give the Office of Finance and Management and the Office of Corporate Counsel time to finish their fiscal impact analysis.

Prop 378 was tabled. This Proposal for a Council Resolution asking Senators Lugar and Bayh to push for the removal of language in HR 915 (FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009) that would pull FedEx from unionizing rules under the Railway Labor Act and put them under the National Labor Relations Act. As discussed earlier, the inclusion of FedEx under RLA was a sweetheart deal to begin with and treated FedEx differently than UPS is treated. Council President Bob Cockrum stated that after the Committee acted on Prop 378 last time, he received phone calls from UPS representatives suggesting there was another side to the story. Cockrum then called for the Council to return the Proposal to the Committee for further consideration. He also invited representatives of FedEx and UPS to come present their viewpoint last night. Even though all had arrived, there were no statements made and the Proposal was tabled. Councillor Cockrum noted that HR 915 had moved out of the House and into two committees of the Senate - one of which had stripped the language in question and the other of which was not expected to consider it for a little while. So, saying it might end up being a moot point, the Committee voted to table the issue until such time as it seems warranted to raise it again. Good move to bring this one back to Committee and great move to table it.


Paul K. Ogden said...

I cannot imagine anything in a city contract ever justifying redaction. I've never seen a contract with a social security number in it.

I'm sorry I missed the meeting. Remind me of the next one. I'd like to see what creative legal positions the OCC comes up with.

Had Enough Indy? said...

As we saw with the appraisals for 450 E. Market Street, State law does omit some information from public access. The intent here is to comply with those laws, which they admitted last night would be rarely an issue with contracts.

November 17 - 5:30 - room 260. I'll try to remind.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I forgot to add -- they estimate that the backlog of contracts total between 5000 and 6000. So the IT guys are working out the easiest means of uploading things. One would expect all but the signatures would be electronic already, but at least some scanning might be needed over what is already done to preserve the record for internal use.

Paul K. Ogden said...

An appraisal though wouldn't be in a contract. I would think it would be extremely rare. I'm just concerned that they're going to try to use that to cut out names of law firms, attorneys, etc., which may appear on the contract.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I was using the appraisal only as one thing that is barred by state law from being released as an open record. In any case, I'm willing to trust them on what is redacted until I see an indication that my trust is not warranted.

Hell, we will be trusting them to publish all of the contracts. Redactions are minor compared to whole documents that could be withheld.

M Theory said...

I don't care how much it costs. We need to be able to see every contract.

What's the legal loophole to keep the Airport Authority and CIB contracts off line?

Had Enough Indy? said...

HFFT - I think they do need to understand the cost of everything they authorize. I am not hearing from anyone that they think it will be prohibitive. Again, most of these documents should be in pdf format already, except for the signed signature page.

My guess is that the municipal corporations are State established entities and the only review authority that the Council has over them is their budgets (sometimes only some of their budgets in fact) and making appointments to their boards of directors. Otherwise these beasts are independent. They could 'agree' to do the same. But I think that the above reason is why this ordinance cannot make them, since the Council has little real authority over them.

Anonymous said...

With regard to the municipal corporations, the Council could at least resolve to request that those agencies put all of their contracts on-line also.

By the way, isn't anyone disturbed by the fact that 5,000 to 6,000 contracts have been executed in less than two years? What are these contracts for and how much money are they stealing from taxpayers?

A contract I would like to see is the contract with KPMG to do an evaluation of city services. Only a selected few have even seen the report generated by them, so obviously fewer still saw the contract.

Jon said...

The ability to scan any document into a pdf format has been available on copiers for years. Set the copier to scan, select an e-mail recipient(s) and press scan. Once scanned to a pdf just post the document to a web site.
The bigger issue in my mind would be how to search the thousands of contracts. Absent a decent search most people won't have the time to search the documents.

Had Enough Indy? said...

Jon - someone has to enter the contract number, vendor name, and department from whose budget the money is spent so that invoices can be paid. So, a database should already exist which a search function could be attached to - or visa versa.

Anon - I agree, that KPMG contract will indeed be interesting.