A bill that critics said would limit the information private university police departments must make public was vetoed Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence. The bill was passed just before the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of ESPN, which seeks records the University of Notre Dame police refuse to make public.
“Throughout my public career, I have long believed in the public’s right to know and a free and independent press,” Pence said in a statement announcing his veto. “Limiting access to police records in a situation where private university police departments perform a government function is a disservice to the public and an unnecessary barrier to transparency. While House Enrolled Act 1022 provides for limited disclosure of records from private university police departments, it would limit the application of the Access to Public Records Act following the Court of Appeals decision and result in less disclosure, therefore I have decided to veto the bill. Hoosiers may be assured that my administration will always be vigilant to preserve government accountability and the public’s right to know.”
The COA ruled in favor of ESPN on March 15, holding that Notre Dame’s police department was a public agency subject to disclosure of records under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act. The network requested records as it examines allegations of preferential treatment by campus police of student athletes.
ESPN attorney Maggie Smith said during oral arguments in the case that the bill was “a bill drafted by Notre Dame and a recognition of the writing on the wall” that state and federal law require disclosure of police records from private universities. She said the bill would require a more limited release of records than if the court ruled the university was subject to APRA.
But bill author Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, criticized Pence Thursday, saying the governor with his veto “relied on misinformation. “
“HEA 1022 concerns the records of criminal acts, not accidental claims. In particular, HEA 1022 would have helped victims of rape as well as sexual assault and battery. It was never intended to influence the ESPN lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of ESPN. The case will next go before the Indiana Supreme Court. If the court upholds the appellate court decision, then the new law would naturally have had to be reviewed to ensure it complies with the high court’s decision,” Bauer said.
“HEA 1022 had unanimous, bipartisan support with only one vote against it during its entire journey through the Indiana House and Senate. Legislators in both chambers carefully examined the issue in public hearings and in both chambers. Unfortunately, most of the special interests who opposed the bill did not attend those committee hearings nor witness the debates on the bill in both the House and Senate. Yet, those same individuals claim the bill places greater restrictions on access to public records.”