A public body’s prearranged discussion by email violates Ohio’s open meetings act

A private prearranged discussion of public business by the majority of a public body’s members either face-to-face or by other means such as telephone, e-mail, text, or tweet, violates the Ohio Open Meetings Act, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 5-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled former Olentangy Local School District Board of Education member Adam White can pursue his lawsuit against the school board for violating the Open Meetings Act. White alleged the violation happened when the board president sparked an exchange of e-mails with the other board members and school officials to respond to a newspaper editorial. The decision, authored by Justice Terrence O’Donnell, reverses the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which approved a trial court’s dismissal of White’s suit.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote the General Assembly has not applied the Open Meetings Act to e-mails and other forms of electronic communication, and an e-mail exchange by public officials would only be a violation if they prearranged a “real-time” exchange to subvert the law. Continue…