By Brian Massie, average citizen
It is not very often that a Prosecutor will publicly admit that elected officials have violated they law, but that is exactly what Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson did during the Commissioners’ meeting on Thursday August 4, 2022.
We discovered that there was a meeting of the Lake County Corrections Board held on Wednesday, July 27th, 2022 on the 5th floor of the Administration Building where the regular Commissioners’ meetings are held. The emergency meeting was held to discuss the placement of the proposed new jail.
Here is an article we published announcing to the Commissioners that, in our opinion, the Ohio Open Meetings Act was violated because the Corrections Board did not publicly post that a meeting was to be held so the taxpayers had the option of attending the meeting.
Here is a short video we created from the Commissioners’ meeting held on Thursday, August 4, 2022 where Prosecutor Coulson admitted that the Corrections Board, comprised of the Judges, Commissioners, Prosecutor and Board Chairman Craig Berry, failed the taxpayers by never announcing that a Corrections Board meeting was to take place.
“The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies in Ohio to conduct all public business in open meetings that the public may attend and observe. This means that if a public body is meeting to discuss and vote on or otherwise decide public business, the meeting must be open to the public. Ohio Revised Code 121.22.”
I have heard many elected officials state “nothing was decided so no violation of the Open Meetings Act took place”. I call that a “CYA” statement made by the elected officials. In reality, they do not want the public to get involved in the affairs of local government. They want free reign to do as they please.
By not informing the citizens, the Corrections Board denied the citizens the opportunity to see their judges in action. Average citizens struggle to vote for judges that are aligned with the citizen’s values or beliefs. Judges will ask for the voters’ support before the election, but will not usually answer any questions by the voters because an issue may be presented to them while on the bench, requiring them to recuse themselves. With incumbent judges, we can review their decisions based on case law. However, the average citizen does not even know where to find the case law, let alone read the volumes associated with it. Another important factor is to see the judges in action in a meeting. Does his or her comportment befit a judge since that position is held to the highest ethical standards?
I do not think that there was an malice by any of the public officials in the issue before us. However, elected officials in Lake County must be more cognizant of the fact that they do work for the citizens of the County. The days of elected officials running roughshod over the citizens are over.
Lobbyists for Citizens would like to thank Prosecutor Coulson for acknowledging that we are now considered as media by elected officials. We will do our best to be responsible journalists, never bearing false witness, but yet exposing the lies, deceptions and betrayals of any elected official regardless of political party.