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April 7, 2014

Floyd County auditor in court over public records

Woman claims she was denied access to Camm trial documents

NEW ALBANY — Floyd County Auditor Scott Clark was in court Monday following a claim that his office had failed to make public records available to a woman who had requested the documents.

Kathy Lowe, Harrison County, filed a motion of default judgment in March that led to the civil hearing in Floyd County Circuit Court.

Lowe claims Clark has dismissed her numerous attempts to obtain claims and invoices related to the three David Camm trials and the renovation of the Pine View Youth Shelter and Government Center.

Lowe’s accusations are supported by the Indiana Public Access Counselor.

A letter drafted by the public access counselor’s office to Lowe in January reads, “You are certainly entitled to the records you seek unless the auditor can demonstrate that the information falls into one of the enumerated exceptions under the Access to Public Records Act. Without the benefit of the auditor’s response, it appears that the agency has violated the APRA in not responding to your request. “ ... it is the opinion of the Public Access Counselor the Floyd County Auditor violated the APRA.”

Even though Lowe resides in Elizabeth, Lowe is from New Albany and said she had a deep interest in each of the Camm trails and their costs to Floyd County taxpayers.

“When I asked for more specific things, Scott Clark told me that he could not give me information on the first or second trials because no one had ever, actually, added them [their costs] up,” Lowe said.

Lowe said Clark also would not respond to her emails requesting information.

“[Clark told me] that I had to, now, write out something hand-written, in person and present it along with my driver’s license, which is not Indiana law to public access, but I complied with his whims, and he still refused to give it to me,” she said, which led her to contacting the public access counselor in December.

Floyd County’s attorney Richard Fox, who is representing Clark, said the auditor’s office has complied with Lowe’s requests and that her frustration stems from miscommunication.

After receiving a response from the state’s public access counselor, Clark provided Lowe with a lengthy transaction history of the auditor’s office, which Fox said shows every bill paid that was requested.

“Those documents indicate every check cut and all of the cross-referencing material that is needed to be able to look up invoices or claims are part of that document,” Fox said. “Those records have been made and are available to her.”

Lowe had the transaction history with her during the hearing, but said the content of the documents is not what she requested.

From prickly comments made by both parties during the hearing, it is apparent Clark and Lowe have had difficulty communicating since she began making requesting financial documents in October related to the third Camm trial.

“Mr. Clark has tried to comply to that request, and, as you can see, we have a situation of oil and water,” Fox said.

Fox said Lowe’s inference that Clark has not complied to her requests is also related to her failure to be clear with what documents she wanted to receive.

“There is an ambiguity as to specifically what it is she was looking for,” he said. “What we ultimately want out of the case is to comply with what her requests are.”

In an attempt to resolve the matter, presiding Judge Terrence Cody ruled that Lowe is permitted to visit the auditor’s office, review relevant public documents and make copies at a cost of 10 cents a sheet.

Lowe said she is pleased with Cody attempting to make the public records more easily available to her, but she’s still feeling deflated.

Lowe said she is uncertain if Cody’s ruling will make it easier for her to obtain documents from the auditor’s office in the future.

“We will see,” she said. “I don’t know. I think it might be a little easier than what I have dealt with in the past, but we will see what transpires.”

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