Indianapolis Business Review
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
That seemed to be Indiana University’s approach to the state’s Open Door Act, at least when it came to publicly approving a nearly $100 consulting contract. $600,000 awarded to outgoing President Michael McRobbie.
After months of ever-evolving explanations from IU as to how its under-the-radar approval of the contract might have been within the law, the Indiana Public Access Advisor appropriately and firmly concluded that this was not the case.
“Despite IU’s flippancy about high-value contracts, a contract extension or consulting agreement worth more than $500,000 for a single employee is undoubtedly an action item that would require a clearance via final action and would warrant discussion at a public meeting,” public access adviser Luke Britt wrote. in an advisory opinion
But any obvious approval of the contract at a public meeting only came months after the contract was executed – and only then due to questions initially raised by law professor Steve Sanders and followed by media coverage. of IBJ and Indiana Lawyer.
The issue was exposed when Sanders learned that IU Board Chairman Michael Mirro had signed a letter in May 2021 that quietly executed the contract without it being publicly reviewed or voted on at the next directors’ meeting in June.
IU’s first explanation was that the board had approved McRobbie’s additional salary at its August meeting, even though IBJ’s review of a video recording of the August meeting showed that the McRobbie’s contract had not been discussed. IU spokesman Chuck Carney said the contract was approved under a list of administrative actions that were not verbally detailed.
Then, in a letter to the Public Access Advisor in November, IU General Counsel Jackie Simmons offered a different explanation. She argued that the Open Door Act did not apply because the trustees had authorized Mirro to act on their behalf.
By December, the McRobbie contract was on the agenda for the monthly board meeting and publicly approved. By the end of the year, Simmons and IU had separated.
Regarding the December board vote, Carney said the action was taken “out of an abundance of caution” and the university considers the matter closed.
We don’t. We believe the university owes Hoosiers an explanation of how it will change its processes to ensure transparency without needing to redo.
He should respect the law of the open door the first time.