What is a legal meeting of the Dayton City Commission?

Since the Mayor decided to finish off the last candidates forum saying that the Commission didn’t hold illegal secret meetings, I thought I’d post the actual language from the Charter and the Sunshine Laws:

Meetings of the Commission
§ 39… the Commissioners shall meet at such times as may be prescribed by ordinance or resolution, except that they shall meet not less than once each week.  The Mayor, any 2 members of the Commission, or the City Manager, may call special meetings of the Commission upon at least 24 hours written notice to each member of the Commission, served personally on each member or left at his usual place of residence.
All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public in accordance with the Ohio Sunshine Law presently codified in Ohio R.C. § 121.22.  The commission shall determine its own rules and order of business and shall keep a journal of its proceedings. (Amendment adopted by voters 11-20-89)

City_Charter.pdf (application/pdf Object) PG 16

What part of “they shall meet not less than once each week” does she not understand? The “Special meetings” – or as they like to call them, “work sessions” are not meant to happen every week.

From pg 90:

Discussing Public Business:  With narrow exception, the Open Meetings Act requires the members of a public body to discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings. In this context,  “discussion” is the exchange of words, comments or ideas by the members of a public body; “deliberation” means the act of weighing and examining reasons for and against a choice.  One court describes  “deliberation” as a thorough discussion of all factors involved, a careful weighing of positive and negative factors, and a cautious consideration of the ramifications of the proposal, while gradually  arriving at decision.
In evaluating whether particular gatherings of public officials constituted “meetings,” several courts have opined that the Open Meetings Act is intended to apply to situations where there has been actual formal action taken, such as deliberation upon official business.  On the other hand, meetings strictly of an investigative and information-seeking nature that do not involve actual deliberations of public business have been found by some not to be “meetings” for purposes of the Open Meetings Act.

Considering all the 5-0 votes with no discussion, either the commission is not doing it’s job, or it’s doing so outside of the required public meeting stipulated in the Charter.

The definition of “Work Session” is from page 91:

a.  Work Sessions:  “Work sessions” or “workshops” are “meetings” where public business is discussed among a majority of the members of a public body at a prearranged time.  Accordingly, these work sessions must be open to the public, properly noticed, and minutes must be maintained, just as with any other meeting.

A prearranged time, is not an “emergency” and the use of the “emergency” or “special meeting” notification process on a weekly basis is a purposeful skirting of the law. Again, the charter stipulates “one meeting per week” and that meeting is for this very purpose. Note- all minutes of these “work sessions” must be maintained, and should be entered into the public record at the regularly scheduled meeting for approval.

Special Meetings:  A “special meeting” is any meeting other than a regular meeting. A public body must establish, by rule, a reasonable method that allows the public to determine the time, place, and purpose of special meetings.
•  Public bodies must provide at least 24 hours advance notification of special meetings to all media outlets or individuals who have requested such notification. PG 94

It’s time we stop hiding behind closed doors and having two commission meetings per week- the well publicized, televised public meeting- and the very quiet work session where the real decisions are being made. I can guarantee, that if elected, this practice will stop.

McLin’s closing comments:

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5 Responses

  1. Ambrose October 5, 2009 / 12:46 pm
    I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about it because you won’t be elected.

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  2. Brian October 5, 2009 / 12:54 pm
    At these work sessions, are they actually “…. arriving at a decision”?  Or are they simply discussing the factors, weighing factors, and cautiously considering ramifications?  I can see where this could easily be abused but, short of positive evidence, is it certain that the work sessions are where “…the real decisions are being made…” and votes being taken?

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  3. Hall October 5, 2009 / 1:24 pm
    I think “all the 5-0 votes with no discussion” is why it’s suspected that the discussions, etc, etc and maybe even “agreement”, i.e. what one will vote, is made beforehand. How often does a commissioner ask to postpone the vote so that they can “research” the issue, get constituent opinions, and so on ?

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  4. David Esrati October 5, 2009 / 1:31 pm

    The work sessions are where the peoples business is being discussed- not at the public, required meeting. This practice must be stopped.

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