We Have an Open Meetings Problem in Wilmington and Clinton County

Let’s say you are a person who is interested in an issue being presented at a Clinton County Commissioner’s meeting, and you want to attend. You do your homework, prepare your statement, get some supporters to join you. Only one problem-you can’t because you have a job. As you may know, our Clinton County Commissioners meet at 8 am on Mondays and Wednesdays. This is a time that allows retirees and the lucky few who can get off work to be a commissioner or participate in meetings, but prohibits those of us who work full-time to attend meetings.

City government is not immune to this issue. I challenge you to find the regular meeting times for the commissions that are administered by the City on the city’s website. Personally, I have ties to multiple commissions/boards, and I struggle to understand or know when these meetings are.

Several local public bodies do a much better job of getting the word out for their meetings. City Council has their meeting times readily available online for both council committees and council at large. They even post the agendas for full council meetings online the day before (and have an email list you can join for the agendas). Council meeting times give more of an opportunity for people who do work to attend. The Clinton County Regional Planning Commission has their next meeting front and center on their website, showing that there are easy ways to do it.

So why do we have so many government organizations that have the issue of inconvenient meeting times or non-posted meeting times? The former is the biggest concern. It raises questions about who these boards serve, especially for the Commissioners. These meetings should be for the benefit of the public, as we are the people who are affected by their decisions. The meeting times also prevents many working people from not only attending meetings, but potentially being a county commissioner.

It is time for us, as a community, to move forward from the days where everyone who lived here, worked here, and people were more available for public meetings during the day. We must demand that our local governmental organizations abide by the spirit of the Open Meetings Laws and accommodate the vast majority of people who are unable to attend meetings during the day. Our elected and appointed officials need to know that these meetings should be held at the public’s convenience, not their own. Wilmington will likely be putting an income tax increase on the November ballot, and citizens should know that their city is actively working to make citizens be a part of the decision making process. Hopefully, the County Commissioners will consider holding their meetings at a time that will actually allow ordinary, working citizens to attend and have their voices heard. The government must work for the people-not the other way around.

7 thoughts on “We Have an Open Meetings Problem in Wilmington and Clinton County

  1. I agree with you re the very limited hours the commissioners are in session. During my tenure we welcomed walk ins without an appointment being needed.

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    1. Open meetings at accessible times and locations has been part of my platform since I first announced my candidacy for county commissioner. The response I often get is, “We tried that but no one came to the meetings.” That is not the point, however. The point is that government must be transparent whether people take advantage of the transparency or not.

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  2. From attending school board meetings in this county, I can tell you that many elected officials do not seem to realize that open meetings laws are not suggestions — they are *laws* that are punishable by legal action. I wish each would attend training, which is often offered by the state.

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      1. I have tried for years to have the meetings recorded and broadcast live and/or delayed on public the access channel. After all Time Warner pays a significant franchise fee to the city. I would also appreciate a transcribed minutes of ALL meetings.

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      2. From the Ohio Attorney General’s website:
        If any citizen believes that a public body has violated the Open Meetings Act, that citizen may file an injunctive action in common pleas court to compel the public body to obey the Act. If an injunction is issued, the public body must correct its actions, may have to pay court costs, and must pay a fine of $500. Whichever party loses the lawsuit pays the reasonable attorney fees of the other party as ordered by the court. R.C. 121.22(I).
        If someone is seeking access to a public body’s minutes, and the body is not turning them over, that person can file a mandamus action under the Public Records Act to force the creation of, or access to, meeting minutes. Mandamus can also be used to order a public body to give notice of meetings to the person filing the action. R.C. 149.43(C)(1).
        Any action taken by a public body while that body is in violation of the Open Meetings Act is invalid. R.C. 121.22(H). A member of the public body who violates an injunction imposed for a violation of the Open Meetings Act may be subject to a court action removing that official from office. R.C. 121.22(I)(4).

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