Yorkville mayor claims village did not break Sunshine Laws

From The Herald-Star

The mayor here said his village is not in violation of the Ohio meeting laws after a village meeting started 30 minutes before its scheduled time and reconvened with a quorum after it passed a motion to adjourn.

Council’s regular meeting was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the village’s municipal building, 139 Market St., Yorkville.

However, the meeting actually began at 6 p.m. Tuesday. It adjourned at about 7 p.m. Four council members — Ron Emerson, Jennifer Murray, Karen Vargo and Linda Mayhugh — and Mayor Blair Closser then drove to attend a council meeting for the village of Tiltonsville at 222 Grandview Ave., Tiltonsville.

According to “Ohio Sunshine Laws 2018: An Open Government Resource Manual,” published by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, a public meeting is defined as “(1) a prearranged gathering of (2) a majority of the members of a public body (3) for the purpose of discussing public business.”

Also, village council meetings — which are subject to the Ohio Open Meetings Act — “must establish, by rule, a reasonable method that allows the public to determine the time and place of regular meetings,” according to the manual.

The village’s website, www.villageofyorkville.org, indicates all municipal meetings — including the one held Tuesday — start at 6:30 p.m.

Still, the mayor said, the village didn’t change the time or location of the meeting with the intent of violating the law.

“We didn’t do it to hide anything,” said Closser. “We didn’t pass anything until (a newspaper reporter) got there at 6:30.

“I think (the time change) was posted on the front door,” said the mayor.

“I’m not sure if the clerk called The Times Leader to say the time changed. Next time, I will be sure to shoot an e-mail to (the newspaper reporter) or the editor.”

The Ohio Sunshine Law manual also says, “Although the Open Meetings Act does not specifically address where a public body must hold meetings, some authority suggests that a public body must hold meetings in a public meeting place that is within the geographical jurisdiction of the public body.”

But the mayor said the gathering of the majority of the members of Yorkville Council at the Tiltonsville meeting did not violate the law.

“I told council members that if they wanted to, they could head over to Tiltonsville to hear about the plans with Chuck Better,” said Closser after the meeting. “I think it was addressed at the end of the meeting after executive session. Maybe before, but I’m not sure.”

Better, who works with Yorkville Intermodal Terminals LLC, was at the Tiltonsville meeting to discuss plans for building a barging facility that would affect Yorkville and Tiltonsville. But that was after council members had ended their meeting for the night.

“I need a motion to adjourn so that we can get up there to the Tiltonsville meeting,” said Closser during the meeting in Yorkville before a motion and second, followed by a unanimous vote, brought that meeting to a close.