Kegler Brown Housing Newsletter April 1, 2008
Ohio's Sunshine Law, Section 121.22 of the Revised Code, requires that a public agency, including a PHA, adequately specify the specific purpose for entering into a closed executive session.
In a recent case involving a Park District, the plaintiff sought a $500 civil forfeiture penalty for each of twenty meetings (i.e., $10,000) where the Park District went into executive session. The only notations in the District's minutes were that the executive session was to discuss "personnel matters." The Court ruled that the Sunshine Law was violated because the District failed to "fully specify" its basis for entering executive session by demoting "the precise type of personnel matters it would address, such as hiring, discipline, termination, etc." Although the Court found a violation, it awarded only one $500 penalty and did not aggregate or "stack" the separate meeting violations, because it found the violations were "technical" and there was no intent to conceal the overall purpose of the executive session. Under the statute, the plaintiff was also entitled to recover her attorney fees. [Weisbarth v. Geauga Park District, 2007-Ohio-6728 (Gea. Co. 2007)].