Resident questions if open meeting laws are being followed

By Kimberly Gasuras - [email protected]

Galion resident and former city law director Roberta Wade accused the Galion City Council of violating the state’s open meetings act.

“You are not allowed to vote on any issue during executive session of council,” Wade said.

Wade said at a recent meeting to appoint a council member to fill a seat left vacant by Sarah Capretta, the council did not vote in open session for new Council member Bill Comerford.

Wade referred to The Ohio Open Meetings Act under Chapter Three: Executive Session in which it states, “A public body may not take any formal action, such as voting or otherwise reaching a collective decision, in an executive session-any formal action taken in executive session is invalid.”

Wade said during her time with the city, Council used paper ballots to vote on issues such as a new council member.

Current law director Thomas Palmer said paper ballots cannot be used.

“The votes have to be done publicly which is what Council did. I was in the executive session and was part of the meeting when council adjourned back into an open session. Council did not vote until they were back into their open meeting,” Palmer said.

At the meeting, The Inquirer observed that once the executive meeting was concluded, Council returned to open session and a motion was made to approve Comerford.. The vote was unanimously approved without public discussion.

Wade also said that a planning commission meeting was held Tuesday afternoon without a 24-hour notice to the public.

“You have to give 24-hours notice and you cannot call an emergency meeting when there is no actual emergency,” Wade said.

Ohio Sunshine Laws regarding notices for public meetings state:

Public bodies must notify the public when and where each meeting will take place and must sometimes give notice of what matters will be discussed. Also, every public body must establish, by rule, a reasonable method for notifying the public in advance of meetings. There are three types of meetings, each requiring different types of notice. “Regular meetings” are held at predictable intervals, such as once a month. Public bodies must establish a reasonable method for alerting the public to the time and place of regular meetings. A “special meeting” is any other kind of meeting. Again, public bodies must establish a reasonable method for alerting the public to the time and place of special meetings, as well as the purpose of the meeting. At least 24 hours’ notice must be given to media outlets that have requested such notice, and only topics related to the stated purpose of the special meeting can be discussed. “Emergency meetings” are special meetings that are needed because a situation requires immediate action. The public body must immediately notify certain media outlets of the time, place, and purpose of the emergency meeting. As with special meetings, only topics related to the stated purpose of the meeting can be discussed. R.C. 121.22(F).

By Kimberly Gasuras

[email protected]

Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras

Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras