|Some Ohio public bodies try to stay in shadows|
|Thursday, March 20, 2014 8:07 PM|
CINCINNATI (AP) — While Ohio law calls for government that is open to the public, shadowy decision-making has led to recent court battles and a legislative effort to shed more light.
So-called “Sunshine Laws,” highlighted across the nation this week, go back decades in promoting access to governments and their records. Ohio’s Open Meetings Act declares that public bodies should take actions in meetings that are open to the public. Some exceptions are allowed, such as for certain legal and personnel matters. But disputes about openness continue.
From small townships to the nation’s highest offices in Washington, officials often are looking for ways around being open to the public, said a Cincinnati attorney who’s a veteran of open meetings lawsuits.
“The nature of power is they want to do whatever they want to do in secretive sessions,” attorney Christopher Finney said.
He was involved in the lawsuit that resulted this month in a Warren County judge’s ruling ordering Clearcreek Township trustees to stop making decisions in gatherings outside of scheduled public meetings. The Columbus Board of Education last month agreed in a settlement with The Columbus Dispatch newspaper to stop using broad claims of attorney-client privilege to hold private discussions about the city school district’s data-rigging scandal. The Cincinnati Enquirer, which successfully challenged a juvenile court judge last year for barring its reporters, also has tangled in recent years with the city’s mayor, council and school board and the University of Cincinnati over doing business out of public sight.