Violation of Open Meetings Act postpones county health board swearing-in

From The Blade Three incoming members of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department’s board of health will not be sworn in as scheduled Thursday because of a violation of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office told the department.

Assistant county prosecutor Kevin Pituch said the members can’t be sworn in at this point because a June 28 special meeting of the Lucas County District Advisory Council, which appoints some of the health board’s members, was not publicized with 24-hours’ notice as required by law. During that meeting, an appointment vote for the members took place.

“Notice did not go out to the media as required by [Ohio Revised Code,]” Mr. Pituch said. “If you conduct a meeting and don’t give proper notice then the actions taken at that meeting are void.”

The vacancies are for board positions representing the county’s villages and townships. Scheduled to be sworn in at Thursday’s health board meeting were:

Matthew Heyrman, who worked in various positions for Lucas County before becoming executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio this year. He returns to the board after his previous term ended in March. His new term expires in 2021.

Dr. Johnathon Ross, an internal medicine specialist with Mercy Health-Toledo, joins with a term ending in 2019.

Toledo attorney Fritz Byers joins the board with a term ending in 2020. Mr. Byers represents The Blade on First Amendment issues.

Dr. Ross and Mr. Byers replace Hans Schmalzried, who resigned in August, and Dr. Vidya Ramanathan, who resigned in September.

The special meeting, which is required to be held again, has not yet been set, said Andy Glenn, president of the district advisory council and a Springfield Township trustee.

When a Blade reporter inquired at the June 28 meeting about public notice, Mr. Glenn acknowledged it was scheduled quickly once it was known they would have a quorum and public notice was not given. The meeting continued.

This is not the first delay in board appointments this year.

Appointments were planned for March at the district advisory council's annual meeting, but did not happen after attendees said they didn’t have enough information about the candidates. Then a May special meeting scheduled specifically to appoint board members was canceled after further concerns were raised about operations at the department and on the board, Mr. Glenn said.

In June, Lucas County commissioners and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson announced that a citizens' task force would review operations at the health department. The areas of concern include financial stability of the department and its clinics, handling of lead issues, and human resources.