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City council won't appeal ruling ending closed sessions

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         OHIO         Freedom of Information         Apr 27, 2000    

City council won’t appeal ruling ending closed sessions

  • A court held that the Cincinnati charter’s requirement that all meetings must be open trumps the council’s rules and the state open meetings law.

The Cincinnati city council voted 7-1 in mid-April not to appeal a court’s ruling that, under the city’s charter, the council can never again meet in executive session, as it has done for the past several decades.

In a case brought by The Cincinnati Enquirer, the state appeals court in Cincinnati ruled unanimously in early April that language in the charter requiring meetings to be open trumps the not only the council’s own rules allowing it to close sessions for certain discussions, but the exemptions to the state’s open meetings law as well.

The Enquirer first sued the council in June 1999 after it had refused to allow a reporter to attend an annual session evaluating the performance of the city’s manager John Shirey. In November a Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati ruled for the city.

The newspaper appealed, asking the state court of appeals both to rule that the session had been held illegally and to prohibit future closed-door sessions.

The appeals panel noted that the charter requires all proceedings to be open. It rejected the city’s argument that because the state sunshine law allows agencies to meet in executive session for certain purposes, the council should be able to similarly close its doors in line with the exemptions to the state law. It also refused to accept the city’s argument that “proceedings” are different from “meetings.”

The panel sent the case back to the lower court which then issued an order prohibiting the council from holding future closed-door meetings.

(State ex rel. Gannett Satellite Information Network , Inc. v. Cincinnati City Council; Media Counsel: John Greiner, Cincinnati)

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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