Lucas County commissioners claim meeting with mayor legal

From The Blade he three Democratic Lucas County commissioners skated on the edge of Ohio’s open-meetings law recently when they prearranged and attended a last-minute meeting with Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins.

Commissioners Carol Contrada, Pete Gerken, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak, along with Lucas County Administrator Laura Lloyd-Jenkins, asked to see Mayor Collins after receiving a letter from him about his decision to order police to charge most criminals under state laws rather than city ordinances. The move could save the city $4 million to $9 million but leave the county short that money.

The four took the elevator from the county’s eighth-floor office in One Government Center to the mayor’s 22nd-floor suite.

Mrs. Contrada, president of the commissioners, said it was not a public meeting and not a violation of the law because the three did not deliberate.

The Ohio Attorney General’s resource manual on the sunshine laws states: “With narrow exceptions, the Open Meetings Act requires the members of a public body to discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings.”

The law also states: “In evaluating whether particular gatherings of public officials constituted ‘meetings,’ several courts have opined that the Open Meetings Act is intended to apply to situations where there has been actual formal action taken, such as deliberation upon official business.”

Mrs. Contrada, an attorney, acknowledged that there was a majority of the board present and that it was prearranged, but stressed that the commissioners neither spoke among themselves nor answered any questions from the mayor.

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