Along with the Public Records Act, the Open Meetings Act is one of Ohio’s two “sunshine laws.” The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to encourage openness in the government’s activities and general conduct by allowing public access to meetings when conducting official business.
As an official of municipal government, you have a responsibility to comply with the Open Meetings Act when convening a public body. This extends beyond merely holding public proceedings. The Ohio State Bar Association explains what the Open Meetings Act does and does not require of you.
Working with the media
News media play an important role in explaining the workings of the government to the public. Access to meetings and records are significant to their effort at gathering information and news. For these reasons, the press is vigilant about the enforcement of the Open Meetings Act and may go to court over access issues.
However, with the exception of certain law enforcement identity records, the Open Meetings Act does not extend any special rights to the media. Under the law, it applies equally to “all persons.”
In addition to holding meetings in public, the Open Meetings Act also requires you to keep full and accurate minutes of all proceedings and to make these available to the public. Minutes of public meetings serve to explain the decisions that your governing body makes to the public, particularly the rationale behind them.
Holding executive sessions
An executive session is an exception to the Open Meetings Act that allows you to meet in private to discuss matters such as collective bargaining, imminent court action or property purchase. While an executive session is not open to the public, you must still follow proper protocols. For example, you must inform the public in an open meeting that you are going into an executive session and record this in the minutes.