Across the country, individuals have been required or encouraged to limit face-to-face meetings and practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). In light of these guidelines, OSBA has received numerous questions regarding the applicability of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) during the pandemic. Because these state directives are changing on a day-to-day basis, boards should consult with legal counsel before making decisions about their meetings.
This week is Sunshine Week, which is a national initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government.
Earlier today, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released an updated version of Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual, which is commonly referred to as the “Yellow Book.” The manual includes information about Ohio’s Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act (collectively referred to as the Sunshine Laws) and includes recent updates.
All elected officials or their appropriate designees are required to attend public records training approved by the attorney general (RC 149.43(E)). The training must be for three hours for each term of office for which the elected official was appointed or elected to the public office (RC 109.43(B)).
On June 30, 2013, House Bill (HB) 59, also known as the budget bill, was signed by Governor Kasich. Effective September 29, 2013, the bill added a new topic to the topics that may be discussed during an executive session of a public body.
Under current law, RC 121.22 (G) provides seven topics, six of which are applicable to school boards, which allow public bodies to remove themselves from public view to engage in discussion regarding certain matters.
No. In advisory opinion 2011-038 (2011 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 038), the Ohio Attorney General (OAG) concluded that a public body (in this instance the State Board of Education) may not vote in an open meeting by secret ballot. The OAG determined that voting by secret ballot would violate Ohio's open meetings law in much the same way as a violation occurs when public officials whisper or pass documents among themselves during meetings or when a vote would improperly be taken during executive session.
In the case of Lowery v. Jefferson County Bd. of Educ., a high school football coach from Jefferson County High School in Tennessee dismissed three students from the football team for challenging his leadership. After the students parents were unsuccessful with their complaints to school officials, they addressed their concerns to the Jefferson County Board of Education.