Reporter arrested for refusing to leave university meeting
OHIO–An Ohio reporter pleaded not guilty in late May to charges of criminal trespassing after refusing to leave a closed meeting of an Ohio University advisory committee.
Jim Phillips, associate editor of The Athens News, said he stayed even after the university’s provost and lawyer asked him to leave because the committee was discussing an issue of interest to the public — switching from quarters to the semester system.
Phillips also argued that the committee was the only body discussing the school’s decision before a recommendation was to be made to the president.
Prosecutors have since begun negotiations with Phillips, after the university said it had no objection to dropping the charges.
But debate still continues over whether the meeting should have been open or closed.
Nicolette Dioguardi, the university’s associate director of legal affairs, said the committee meeting could be closed because its decisions were not binding.
Although the provost gave a press conference after the meeting, she originally asked that the meeting be closed because some committee members were uncomfortable discussing the issue in front of the media.
Ohio state open meeting law requires the meetings of “any board, commission, committee or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution or authority” to be open. The law makes no distinction between appointed or elected bodies and includes those created to find facts or gather information. (City of Athens v. Phillips; Media Counsel: Thomas Esolacker, Athens)