Media questions prompt joint task force on Dayton schools to cancel meeting

From The Dayton Daily News

The new Facilities Task Force studying potential closure of Dayton Public Schools buildings canceled its initial meeting Tuesday morning after the members had already arrived.

At issue was a disagreement between Task Force members and local media about whether the meeting was open to the public under Ohio’s open meetings law.

RELATED: Task force to study potential school closures

Reporters from the Dayton Daily News and WHIO-TV, plus local activist and blogger David Esrati, arrived early for the 9:30 a.m. meeting, and were allowed to set up cameras and tables.

But as the meeting was about to start, DPS spokeswoman Marcia Bonhart asked the media to leave, saying the event was not open to the public. A Dayton Daily News reporter immediately presented a letter suggesting the meeting qualified as an open meeting under Ohio law.

Acting DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein and Task Force co-chairs Mohamed Al-Hamdani and Jeff Mims scanned the document, then told the media they believed the meeting was closed to the public.

Charlie Russo, research professor of law at the University of Dayton, said the Task Force’s attempt to meet in private did not seem to fit the requirements of Ohio’s open meetings law.

“The spirit of the law, not just in Ohio but elsewhere, is that public business should be the business of the public. People should know what’s going on,” Russo said. He acknowledged that there are some exceptions allowing private meeting. “But none of those exceptions applied. I don’t believe they made the right call.”

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