Since the election season has just passed, more attention than usual may be focused upon our government. In Ohio, our state and local governments are an “open book” and the business of each governmental board is open to the public. You may have heard references to the “sunshine laws.” This generally refers to the statutory requirements that government be open to the public. We have previously examined the right to review a public record.
It is also important to keep in mind that governmental boards may only transact business while in open, public session. Minutes from these meetings are also available to the public. Ohio law provides for executive session, a session closed to the public, in limited circumstances. However, government boards may only vote and make decisions while in public session.
For each governmental board – whether state, county, township, or a municipality, the entity must meet at a regularly scheduled time and place or give written public notice of a special meeting. These meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend.
So why is this important? If you are interested in what your city council is doing, show up at the meeting. If you have concerns about county government, attend a county commissioner meeting. We could dedicate an entire column to listing all of the public boards – your school board, your township trustee meeting, and on and on. But the legal requirements are essentially the same for each. You have a right to be present and hear everything that is said at a government meeting. I encourage each of you to show up and give your input. If nothing else, just show up and let our leaders know you are there and that you care about the decisions they are making
This column does not seek to provide legal advice. Neither Tommie Jo Marsilio nor the Villager are providing legal advice to readers. This column is for education and entertainment only. The advice of an attorney or other professional should be sought regarding any individual situation or legal question.