Waste district conducts public meeting in private, challenged by Vindicator

From The Vindicator The attorney for the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Management District gave various explanations Tuesday morning as to why a Vindicator reporter was not permitted to enter a meeting related to the selection of a new district director, but none of them apparently is supported by law.

Atty. Greg O’Brien was one of three members of a committee that agreed to recommend two people to the county commissioners from Geauga and Trumbull counties to replace the retiring Bob Villers.

After Trumbull Commissioner Dan Polivka objected to the makeup of the committee and the requirement that the director have a bachelor’s degree, and argued that he had not been notified of the committee’s meetings, a new committee was formed.

The committee had its first meeting this morning at the district’s offices on Enterprise Drive to cull the 24 resumes it received and set up strategy for interviews to take place Jan. 25.

O’Brien at first told The Vindicator there would be no meeting because not enough members had come.

A short time later, another member arrived, and O’Brien was asked if there were enough now for a meeting. This time he said the gathering was not a public meeting.

The third time he was asked, O’Brien said: “It’s not an open meeting under Ohio law. I’m asking you to please leave and go to the lobby.” A reporter could see committee members sitting down in the room with O’Brien.

He added later, “I don’t even have the whole board or quorum of the board here to go into a meeting to go into executive session.”

Executive session is a segment of a public meeting that takes place in private if certain Ohio Sunshine Law requirements are met.

But David Marburger, a public-records and open-meetings attorney who represents The Vindicator, said O’Brien is wrong in saying Tuesday’s meeting was not a public meeting. As long as a majority of a board of this type is present, the meeting is a public meeting, he said.