Secret Meetings are a NO NO – ORC § 121.22
December 2, 2014 – East Cleveland Ohio – Going into Executive Sessions is something new for the three East Cleveland City Boards. City council just initiated using Executive Session more active this year and The East Cleveland School Board used the privilege numerous times during 2014.
New to going into Executive Session is the East Cleveland Library Board who made several critical mistakes in their haste to get to a secret meeting. First mistake was to excluding public and media members in the audience at their SECRET meeting Monday December 1, 2014.
Review the short video tape of their meeting shown below and then download both the Sunshine Guide and Public Meeting literature provided by Ohio State Auditor Mike Dewine’s office.
also take a look at: http://44112news.com/documents/Sunshine/OMAonly42111.pdf
Clearly with the verbiage that there will be a vote taken and the suspected board member will not be allowed to vote shows that the idea was to hold a private meeting where the public was not allowed to see or hear anything. Secret meetings are strictly not allowed in the state of Ohio and based on state law there should not have been anything more than a discussion of material that meets the following criteria at any Executive Session. Ohio Revised Code § 121.22
(1) To consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual requests a public hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official’s official duties or for the elected official’s removal from office. If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held, but need not include the name of any person to be considered at the meeting.
(2) To consider the purchase of property for public purposes, or for the sale of property at competitive bidding, if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest. No member of a public body shall use division (G)(2) of this section as a subterfuge for providing covert information to prospective buyers or sellers. A purchase or sale of public property is void if the seller or buyer of the public property has received covert information from a member of a public body that has not been disclosed to the general public in sufficient time for other prospective buyers and sellers to prepare and submit offers.
If the minutes of the public body show that all meetings and deliberations of the public body have been conducted in compliance with this section, any instrument executed by the public body purporting to convey, lease, or otherwise dispose of any right, title, or interest in any public property shall be conclusively presumed to have been executed in compliance with this section insofar as title or other interest of any bona fide purchasers, lessees, or transferees of the property is concerned.
(6) Details relative to the security arrangements and emergency response protocols for a public body or a public office, if disclosure of the matters discussed could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the security of the public body or public office;
(7) In the case of a county hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 339. of the Revised Code, a joint township hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 513. of the Revised Code, or a municipal hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 749. of the Revised Code, to consider trade secrets, as defined in section 1333.61 of the Revised Code;
(8) To consider confidential information related to the marketing plans, specific business strategy, production techniques, trade secrets, or personal financial statements of an applicant for economic development assistance, or to negotiations with other political subdivisions respecting requests for economic development assistance, provided that both of the following conditions apply:
(1) The information is directly related to a request for economic development assistance that is to be provided or administered under any provision of Chapter 715., 725., 1724., or 1728. or sections 701.07, 3735.67 to 3735.70, 5709.40 to 5709.43, 5709.61 to 5709.69, 5709.73 to 5709.75, or 5709.77 to 5709.81 of the Revised Code, or that involves public infrastructure improvements or the extension of utility services that are directly related to an economic development project.
(2) A unanimous quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, that the executive session is necessary to protect the interests of the applicant or the possible investment or expenditure of public funds to be made in connection with the economic development project.
If a public body holds an executive session to consider any of the matters listed in divisions (G)(2) to (8) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved matters listed in those divisions are to be considered at the executive session.
A public body specified in division (B)(1)(c) of this section shall not hold an executive session when meeting for the purposes specified in that division.
(H) A resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind is invalid unless adopted in an open meeting of the public body. A resolution, rule, or formal action adopted in an open meeting that results from deliberations in a meeting not open to the public is invalid unless the deliberations were for a purpose specifically authorized in division (G) or (J) of this section and conducted at an executive session held in compliance with this section. A resolution, rule, or formal action adopted in an open meeting is invalid if the public body that adopted the resolution, rule, or formal action violated division (F) of this section.
With the mistake already made what happens next? First any aggrieved person in attendance at the meeting could file for an injunction in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas per ORC 121.22 which states exactly: (1) Any person may bring an action to enforce this section. An action under division (I)(1) of this section shall be brought within two years after the date of the alleged violation or threatened violation. Upon proof of a violation or threatened violation of this section in an action brought by any person, the court of common pleas shall issue an injunction to compel the members of the public body to comply with its provisions.
Realizing their mistake the East Cleveland Library Board of Trustees could also erase their error by invalidating the executive session held on December 1, 2014 before the members of the public with an apology if they so desire to give the public members in attendance at that meeting and also those who view the video of the event.
To assist all East Cleveland Board and Council members and citizens from making mistakes that could show that they are holding secret meetings Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine has provided a number to call and get copies of Ohio Sunshine Laws 2014 by simply calling: The Public Records Unit can be reached at 614-466-2872.
Citizens are also welcome to call and get their own copy of Ohio Sunshine Laws or click here for more information on public record and meetings: http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Sunshine-Laws
Finally if the matter that has the East Cleveland Library Board is a criminal matter ergo Sexual Harassment, Assault, Theft or any other criminal matter they have a duty to report it to the East Cleveland Prosecutor, East Cleveland Police, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, or Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. Failure by any of the members to report a crime could make then personally liable for any such quiet action. It is not the job of the East Cleveland Library Board to become investigators of each other and no member has the right to keep a criminal matter silent.
44112News.com will keep the public updated on exactly what the EC Library Board Members do in the next few weeks.
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