Upper Arlington releases previously withheld meeting recording

From The Columbus Dispatch The Upper Arlington City Council has released a recording that’s the subject of a public-records lawsuit, reversing an earlier decision to withhold it. (Download file here: 253MB)

Upper Arlington resident Robert Foulk, who filed the lawsuit Feb. 6, called the move a “victory for the concept of open government.”

At issue is a recording of a nearly-five-hour public council retreat Jan. 10 in Lewis Center. Foulk requested a copy of the recording and received it, but city officials withheld about 14 minutes because it included the city’s attorney discussing legal issues.

A full recording of the meeting was posted on the city’s website Tuesday afternoon, following a Monday night council vote.

The once-redacted portion occurs approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes into the meeting, Upper Arlington spokeswoman Emma Speight said.

It includes a conversation about the city’s February decision to outsource its 911 dispatching services to the Dublin-based Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center.

The city charter gives City Manager Ted Staton the authority to approve the move himself, Hummer said in the recording. The discussion concerned whether council intended to approve an ordinance anyway. They eventually did.

Staton’s authority means the public cannot overturn the controversial decision with a ballot initiative or referendum, according to the conversation.

Earlier this year, city officials said that conversation was exempt from disclosure under state law. Council members said Monday that they believe that is still the case, but by waiving attorney-client privilege, the city could move forward and avoid accruing further legal expenses. A Dispatch reporter submitted a public records request Tuesday asking how much the city has spent defending the case.

Two council members, Debbie Johnson and Brendan King, voted against releasing the recording. Member David DeCapua was absent.

The audio posted on the city website doesn’t specify which portions were once redacted. The edited audio file has been removed.

Foulk and his attorney are pushing for the once-redacted portion of the audio to be posted separately online. Foulk says it’s an “undue burden” to force residents to listen to the entire recording and compare it to the redacted version in order to decipher which parts were once omitted.

The city has no plans to do so, Speight said.