City Council met for its first regular meeting of September on 9/5 with a light planned agenda. As expected the Council Investigative Committee delivered its report with recommendation. The report and supporting documents are public record and can be requested in full by contacting the City Administration. For background you can check my prior post on the committee and the summary recommendations are below. As I said in the meeting the findings represent the shared conclusions of the committee as a whole, there were no dissenting or minority views reported. While at times I found the process to be very challenging the end report felt complete and fact based. City Council voted 5-2 to accept the report with Councilpersons Hawkins and Emerson dissenting.
Personally, I am glad this is behind us. Full CIC meeting minutes can be found on the City website.
Section V. Recommendation from the CIC final summary report follows:
1. Consistent with the City Charter, Ohio law, and principles of good government, Council’s presumption should be to discuss public business in an open meeting, even if the issues are controversial, sensitive, or otherwise likely to generate disagreement.
2. All councilpersons and other attendees at executive sessions of Council should be reminded in the strongest terms possible that executive sessions are confidential, and that no attendee should discuss any aspect of the executive session with anyone who did not attend. This recommendation is equally relevant when Council discusses difficult issues that generate personal or professional disagreement. However, Council and the Law Director should review Codified Ordinance 30.052(D), which provides that “all subjects” discussed in executive session are confidential unless the presiding officer releases that obligation. The extent to which the “all subjects” language pertains to the entire discussion held in executive session, including the tone and tenor of the comments made in executive session, could be unclear.
3. While the current council members who attended the Executive Session do not need additional Sunshine Law training beyond the supplemental training specified in the Agreed Entry, Council must be mindful of the basis for calling executive sessions and make sure that the proposed reason is both lawful and fits the nature of the discussion proposed.
4a. Where possible, anyone proposing to move for an executive session should review the basis for such a session with the Law Director in advance of the applicable meeting.
b. If advance review is not possible, Council should take sufficient time to review the basis for an executive session with the Law Director during an open meeting prior to acting on a motion.
4. If any City official or employee learns information suggesting a breach of confidentiality obligations, that person should report the potential breach promptly to the Law Director for investigation or further handling. Such an official or employee should not investigate the matter on his or her own or discuss the matter with anyone else unless and until instructed by or through the Law Director.
5. Where conferences with the Law Director or another attorney representing the City are at issue, Council should consider whether to conduct a closed informational session as authorized by Ohio law instead of an executive session called during an open meeting.
a. Council must be careful not to exceed the lawful bounds of any such informational session.
b. Council should not engage in any discussion during a closed informational session that addresses the merits of an issue in any way that could be construed as deliberation.
6. To be prepared for future discussions involving the threat of a lawsuit that is not necessarily “imminent,” Council and the Law Director should review the extent to which the provision in the City’s Codified Ordinances allowing Council to call an executive session to review “possible” litigation is consistent with the City Charter.