Pharos-Tribune

Breaking News

Opinion

September 23, 2012

Secrecy bad idea for city

— Logansport city officials acknowledged last week that they had reached an out-of-court settlement with retired firefighters who claimed the city owed them for accumulated vacation time.

The city needs to release that settlement.

“The agreement is a public record,” said Stephen Key, executive director and general counsel of the Hoosier State Press Association. “Since we’re talking  about the expenditure of public money, the public has a right to know how that money is being spent.”

The Pharos-Tribune filed public records requests Thursday with both Mayor Ted Franklin and the city clerk-treasurer’s office. The city clerk-treasurer, Carol Sue Hayworth, was out of the office Friday and could not be reached for comment. Franklin said he had forwarded the request to Wayne Uhl, who is representing the city in the lawsuit. Uhl, too, was out of the office.

“I’ve asked him to call you as soon as he gets back in the office on Tuesday,” Franklin said.

Seven retired firefighters had filed the lawsuit in July 2011 claiming the city owed them $4,500 for six weeks of vacation they believed they had earned before accepting an early retirement offer the year before.

The city countered that the former firefighters’ claims ran counter to city ordinance. It said they had agreed to a $26,000 lump sum payment and that was all they had coming to them.

The city acknowledged, though, that it had tried to settle the dispute in advance of the lawsuit by offering the firefighters three weeks of vacation pay.

Court documents indicate that the two sides had agreed to mediation and that a report was filed Sept. 6. The two sides then filed an order of dismissal, which was granted last week.

Such endings are not uncommon when two parties find themselves in court. Attorneys frequently work out agreements, and the terms are frequently sealed. Both sides agree not to talk about the outcome, and the parties go their separate ways.

Such agreements often run counter to the public interest. Someone sues a manufacturer for an unsafe product, and the company buys the victim’s silence with a cash settlement.

Sometime later, someone else is injured by the same faulty product, and the process repeats itself. Meanwhile, other buyers of the product go on with their lives, unaware that they might soon join the list of victims.

The former city firefighters are under no obligation to talk about the settlement. They’re private citizens, who are perfectly within their rights to maitain their silence.

The city, though, is a government entity, and as such, it has an obligation to the general public. Key suggested that city officials never should have agreed to the so-called “no media” clause.

“I would think there would be some sort of written agreement, and that agreement is public record,” he said. “The city cannot agree to make a public record confidential. That agreement would be superceded by state law.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • THEIR VIEW: Indiana needs open primary elections Indiana's primary election system is dysfunctional. What the state really needs is an open primary system. This month, the Lake County election board argued about the procedures for recruiting high school students as poll workers for the May 6 primar

    April 23, 2014

  • KITCHELL: Tax bills show what smoke & mirrors don't There's a price to be paid for the decline in what we call civic engagement -- and local property taxpayers are paying that price. In case you haven't received your 2014 Cass County property tax statement yet, be prepared for a bit of sticker shock w

    April 23, 2014

  • MARCUS: Illinois brings joy to Indiana From the email this week, I sensed a profound need by Hoosiers to find joy in the problems of Illinois. Our neighbors to the west are fighting their way through a mess of their own making. They have forced themselves to raise taxes and cut services t

    April 22, 2014

  • THEIR VIEW: Let voters weigh option of easing daily commute There was a time in this country when workers typically lived less than an hour's walk from their jobs. A time when a "commuter" was simply a traveler taking advantage of a reduced railway fare on his way to the big city. A time when the American sub

    April 22, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: Wait a minute here — what did I just sign? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 22, 2014

  • LYONS: How we devalued the 'R' word At the risk of angering somebody like MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, I sometimes used to joke that I only look white. Actually, I'm Irish. Meaning basically that I wasn't raised to think the man in the big house had all the answers, nor deserved all t

    April 21, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards. That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation

    April 21, 2014

  • THEIR VIEW: Careful look at tax structure needed Indiana legislators this year created a "blue-ribbon commission" to study the state's taxes on businesses this summer. We hope the commission will listen to Larry DeBoer, a Purdue professor who might understand Indiana's tax structure better than any

    April 20, 2014

  • KNISELY: Adventures in cat spaying If you're a regular reader of this column, you know I have a cat. I got the cat to deal with the mice. Even if you only pop in on this column from time to time, you still likely know I have mice and that I hate them. I complain about it quite regular

    April 20, 2014

  • PUBLIC FORUM: Letters for Sunday, April 20, 2014 Power forum hopes to answer questions Do you pay electric bills? Then you are invited to learn how Public Power can often lower electric rates. Logansport's coal firing plant must be shut down within two years, and our contract with Duke expires in f

    April 20, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.