Open Meetings Act & Executive Sessions…there is a rule for that

Suggestion for the budding community activist:  Read the manual dealing with the Ohio “Sunshine Laws” .  Here is a link you can use:

https://ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/site/government/resources/sunshine-laws

There are definite rules that a governmental body must follow to comply with the Open Meetings Act in order to enter into an executive session.  There are specific exceptions that must be announced during the public meeting allowing them to enter into an executive session.

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/121.22v1

Here are some excerpts from that code section: [red highlights by LFC]

(A) This section shall be liberally construed to require public officials to take official action and to conduct all deliberations upon official business only in open meetings unless the subject matter is specifically excepted by law.

“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.”

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(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.

citizen action

(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.

There have been recent rulings by the 11th District Court of Appeals.  They are one of twelve appellate districts in the state of Ohio.  They rule on decisions made by lower courts, and their jurisdiction consists of Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Trumbull Counties.

The Court released two opinions recently that settle the question of law regarding giving a specific reason, rather than reading the laundry list of reasons to enter into executive session,  as the Portage County Board of Commissioners and Rootstown Township Trustees did.  The Court decided that a specific reason allowed by law must be given by the public body.

State ex rel. Ames v. Portage Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 2019-Ohio-3729 {¶63} Based on the plain language of the statute, and considering the above authorities, the trial court erred in holding that the Board necessarily stated an acceptable purpose under R.C. 121.22(G)(1) by reading the entire list of permissible purposes verbatim. The statute mandates that the Board specifically state in its motions and votes the particular permitted purpose or purposes that the Board reasonably intends to discuss during executive session.

State ex rel. Ames v. Portage Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 2019-Ohio-3730 {¶69} Based on the plain language of the statute, and considering the above authorities, the trial court erred in holding that the Board necessarily stated an acceptable purpose under R.C. 121.22(G)(1) by reading the entire list of permissible purposes verbatim. The statute mandates that the Board specifically state in its motions and votes the particular permitted purpose or purposes that the Board reasonably intends to discuss during executive session.



Categories: Community Activist Training, Uncategorized

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