Did a police chief search committee member vote remotely?

Anonymous
Dec 18, 2012

This week I'm discussing the interpretation of the Sunshine Law when it comes to chief search committee.

Two members were absent at the Police Chief Committee meeting, one of which teleconferenced into the meeting.

But did the two absent members share their vote prior to the meeting?

The Sunshine Law states: A member of a public body must be present in person in order to be considered present, vote or be counted as part of the quorum. In the absence of statutory authority, public bodies may not meet via electronic or telephonic conferencing.

The number four was given to several of the candidates indicating that at least one member voted absentee when, only three members were physically present. The tape will reflect the vote along with the minutes showing what numbers were given to each candidate. If the absent members participated in the “assignment”, their votes, by law, should be stricken from the record in order for the process to be fair and balanced.

It seemed, according to the city, it was all right for the absent member to just listen in as long as the person did not vote and was not officially a part of the quorum.  I did not hear the member vote over the phone, but did he hand in his vote by some other way before the meeting? Since precedence has already been established, would the same teleconferencing call privilege be extended to any City Commissioner being absent and out of town during a commission meeting, if a commissioner would request a teleconferencing call?

Public bodies cannot go into executive session to vote, so I wondered how the committee was going to select the candidates.  From what I observed, the committee had some kind of numbering system set up before the meeting and presented their conclusions to be tallied at the meeting called their “assignment”. The public was not able to observe why each committee member gave the choice ranking that they gave to the candidates.

The Sunshine Law states: The Open Meetings Act declares that its provisions shall be liberally construed to require public officials to take official action and conduct all deliberations only in open meetings. Voting by secret ballot contradicts the openness requirement by hiding the decision-making process from the public view.  Deliberating
is the act of weighing and examining reasons for and against a choice.

Until next week, no one should care what method is used in the selection process as long as the integrity of the Sunshine Law is preserved.    

 

Comments

car 54

This should not be a surprise Sharon.

drdhead

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal information.

richrs

drd
I couldn't agree with you more. How does the old saying go? Your either part of the solution or part of the problem. Her and a lot of the posters here fall into the latter category.

T. A. Schwanger

drdhead;:

So your pre·req·ui·site required or necessary as a prior condition to address or question government one must first run for and be elected to said government.

I wonder, based on your opinion, do you think the same way when the Sandusky Register publishes an article questioning local government's actions? Should the Sr Editorial Board and Reporters run for and get ellected prior to printing these stories.

reader

T. A., I imagine some have just grown weary of the continual knit picking by some observers of city government. Sitting on the sidelines, throwing pot shots and throwing up roadblocks, that sort of thing.

I guess they would respect the critics more if they ventured into the arena and helped govern, instead of voting remotely.

Not saying that's how I feel, ya know. Just saying I can understand what they are thinking.

G George I du kno

They will never get it right and I agree who cares. Just hire someone already and quit wasting money. Just another way for the Register to try and have their hand at running the city!

reader

Sharon, your readers are all wondering... did you write this column remotely or did you pound it out on a typewriter in the city newsroom?

Inquiring minds want to know !

Kelly

Jeeze at least they took their responsibility seriously and actually voted.

Larry

I think the SR should hire Sharon, whether or not you agree with her or not at least she takes the time to do some actual "investigative reporting " A concept that is in short supply at the SR.

nobodyfromnowhere

I must say I find it curious that as I looked back I couldn't find a single news report of the committee's meetings. I'm sure it just a minor oversight of the Register since given the city's rising murder rate and heavily reported on problems in the PD, it probably is kind of an important decision. Only a couple of meet the candidates stories and Ms. Johnson's opinion pieces. Or is that only for subscribers? If so probably not a good position to take for a newspaper that likes to hold itself up as a watch dog of the public trust. That would appear to be selective reporting of news of public interest and very untrustworthy, and might cause people to wonder what other things is the Register not telling?? Perhaps you (Ms. Johnson) could enlighten me as to what exactly transpired during these meetings, and what votes were taken?

Also you should probably be happy they aren't meeting in executive session since that is explicitly allowed according to Ohio Open meetings law.

ORC Section 121.22(G) Except as provided in division (J) of this section, the members of a public body may hold an executive session only after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an
executive session and only at a regular or special meeting for the sole purpose of the consideration of any of the following matters:
(1) To consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual requests a public hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official's official duties or for the elected official's removal from office. If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive
session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held, but need not include the name of any person to
be considered at the meeting.

Darkhorse

It sounds like the city is trying to wiggle themselves out of a sticky legal situation. Whether what happened is considered legal by turning the word vote into an assignment and allowing two absent members to participate in the assignment through via e-mail and teleconfercing certainly seems to be unethical.

Woody Hayes

This week I'm just wondering why you don't run for office?

wiredmama222

So does this mean they are closer to chosing the final four or not? I am totally confused by what she means by this piece?

It sounds to me like the number 4 refers to the final 4 who will be vetted perhaps and given to the commissioners for their consideration for testing? Could that be what they are doing?