Did the Xenia City Council violate Open Meeting Laws?

Ethics

On July 29, 2010, Xenia City Council met in a special session. The posted agenda was for this meeting to be only an “Executive Session to discuss Potential Litigation”. However they actually done a lot more. After coming out of their executive session, all members,with the exception of Dale Louderback, then continued to meet in a Special Session, in potential volition of the Ohio Open Meetings Act! Here you can see the Draft Minutes from the meeting, where topics discussed and voted on where:

1. An Ordinance adopting a proposed amendment to the City Charter titled, “Article XVI: Safety Services” – Which is the ballot request brought to the City Council by a petition of voters, asking to set minimum levels of Police and Fire Services.

2. Ordinance adopting a proposed amendment to the City Charter titled, “Article XVI: Safety Services” – Which is the ballot request brought to City Council by the City Leadership, asking to allow volunteer and part-time safety service workers.

3. A special motion, not on the agenda, by John Caupp, asking the city to adopt a “Code of Ethics” for its boards and commissions.

What was wrong with this, and how did it violate the Ohio Open Meetings Act? The  Law is there to protect citizens from not being aware of the actions of their City Council, and states that Special Sessions, outside regular scheduled Council Meetings are allowed, but have limitations. It is quoted as saying:

“Where a special meeting is held to discuss particular issues, the statement of the meeting’s  purpose must specifically indicate those issues, and only those issues may be discussed at that meeting. Where a special meeting is simply a rescheduled “regular” meeting occurring at a different time, the stated purpose may be noticed to the public as “general purposes. Discussing matters not disclosed in the purpose statement of a special meeting, either in open session or executive session of the special meeting is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

So I ask you, if the only agenda item was the "Executive Session to discus potential litigation", how was it allowed that the other discussions and votes took place? Was it just an oversight of Council , who have a fulltime Law Advisor and all have had training on the Ohio Open Meetings Act and signed Code of Ethics to uphold it, or was it an attempt to take the motions and votes, with out those who might object having a chance to speak on the topics? Their motivations, only they can talk to!

I guess we will wait to see what comes from it, the Ohio Open Meetings Act, states that violations can be filed in the County Court. The downside to this, is the person wishing to file the complaint must pay to have it filed and then the city tax payers must pay to defend their council and city Law Department....Seems the tax payers loose both ways and leaves the question, what else has been discussed and passed this way?


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