Monday, July 15, 2013

Ohio Open Meetings? Why bother?

Ohio ostensibly has an Open Meetings statute requiring that meetings of public bodies (City Councils, Township Trustees, school boards, etc.) to be announced to the public, open to the public and reported to the public via recorded minutes.

But the Courts have so unrecognizably contorted that statute, it has no meaning at all.  Public bodies may confer in secret on public business, and the Courts refuse to intervene, as a result of a judicially-created, a non-existent distinction between "discussions" and "deliberations" of public business.  Under some court decisions, a meeting is not a meeting unless the Plaintiff can show that in the mind of the public officials they were, in their own minds, carefully "deciding" the issues before them instead of just "discussing" them.  We do not make this stuff up.

Take Clearcreek Township for example.  There, the Township Trustees continuously for 24 years have had "pre-meeting meetings" that were not open to the public before every trustee meeting, were not announced to the public and were not reported to the public via meeting minutes.   At those meetings they reviewed the official agendas of the Trustees, aired their differences and even voted on and removed from the agenda as a result certain agenda items.

Yet, a Warren County Judge found that such conduct was not violative of the Ohio Open Meetings statute, "nothing to see here."  Fortunately, the 12th District Court of Appeals saw things differently and reversed, maybe offering a glimmer of hope for advocates of the rule of law and open government.

Senator Shannon Jones has introduced legislation to fix the mess the Courts have made of the Ohio Open Meetings law.

Read more about it all in today's Enquirer, here.

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