Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Behind Closed Doors: What are they hiding?

Isn't it ironic that the Olentangy school board adopts the policy below soon after being called to task for violating Ohio sunshine laws? What are they hiding behind closed doors? Certainly not sunshine!

Note: You just have to love the repeated use of the phrase "confidentiality is necessary to the proper conduct" of government business. Proper conduct is what's been missing at board meetings

From Tuesday's board agenda:

Resolution to Adopt Policy
Presented for Board of Education Approval May 27, 2008


WHEREAS, Ohio Revised Code Section 121.22(G) authorizes the Board of Education to go into executive session to discuss certain matters that are confidential by law, or when confidentiality is necessary to the proper conduct of the Board’s business; and

WHEREAS, Ohio Revised Code Section 102.03(B) provides that no public official shall disclose or use, without appropriate authorization, any information acquired in the course of the official’s duties that is confidential by law, or when confidentiality is necessary to the proper conduct of government business; and

WHEREAS, the Board desires to act in furtherance of these laws and the public policy supporting these laws, and for the proper conduct of its business; and

WHEREAS, the Board also desires to allow family members and other persons to reach Board members in the event of an emergency;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Board hereby adopts the following policy:

File: 1072.1

SAFETY AND SECURITY OF EXECUTIVE SESSION

Board members shall not take any electronic communication devices into an executive session entered into for any reason authorized and/or required by the Sunshine Law. “Electronic communication device” shall include, without limitation, any audio or video recording device, cell phone, BlackBerry®, personal data assistant, pager or other two-way communication instrument. A medical device, such as a hearing aid, used solely for the purpose of amplifying sound, shall not be considered an “electronic communication device.”

Except as otherwise expressly provided in this policy, Board members shall leave all electronic communication devices and all personal effects or accessories that could be used to conceal such devices, such as brief cases, purses, backpacks, book bags and overcoats, in the secure possession of the treasurer or designee before entering into executive session.

The treasurer or designee will monitor the electronic communication devices in his or her secure possession during executive session. In the event of an emergency communication, the treasurer or designee will interrupt the executive session to notify the Board member receiving the communication. The Board member shall be excused from executive session to attend to the emergency communication. A Board member who does not wish to have his or her electronic communication devices monitored while the Board is in executive session shall express this intent to the treasurer in writing, and the intent will be honored unless and until it is revoked by a subsequent written notice.

5 comments:

Paul said...

Jim:

This is just nuts. What's next - a strip search?

Both of us know that technology is such that even with all these precautions, it's an easy matter to conceal a wireless transmitter.
I suppose the Board could build a special meeting room enclosed in a Faraday cage as the Feds do.

That still wouldn't protect them from someone carrying a miniature recorder (I once had one that doubled as a ballpoint pen).

The law already says (ORC 102.99(B)) Whoever violates division (D) of section 102.02 or section 102.021, 102.03, 102.04, or 102.07 of the Revised Code is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree. A first degree misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison and $1,000.

Isn't that sufficient incentive to obey the law without having to resort to such draconian measures?

PL

Jim Fedako said...

Paul,

I must assume that things are being said, and business being conducted, that shouldn't be. No other explanation makes sense.

Paul said...

I agree. I linked a comment in my blog to this post, hoping it will raise some eyebrows over here in Hilliard.

Thanks for paying attention to this.

PL

Anonymous said...

It's clear... even after all of the press lately, that 4/5th of the board doesn't care. They do what they want to do. They treat a fellow board member like crap without repurcussion or ramifications.

Clearly the board was caught red handed and they are trying to ensure it doesn't happen again.

The Yellow Book states that Executive Session material can be discussed outside of Executive Session. While the meeting occurs behind closed doors, a member may discuss it outside of closed doors. Thus there is no legal standing for this change, as I interpret the Yellow Book.

It is easy to conclude then that the board is hiding something. Go figure. After last weeks article in the OVN, it seems to be status quoe.

Phil

taxpayer of 3 said...

Jim....I've been quiet for awhile...my two thoughts!

From the Ohio Ethics law of 1973

Confidential Information


The Ethics Law prohibits present and former public officials or employees from disclosing or using any information appropriately designated by law as confidential. This prohibition remains in effect as long as the information remains confidential.

Key words...."as designated by law", not board policy.

A memo which demonstrates how to get around the Sunshine Law to hire a search firm and exclude candidates is not an employment issue.

Only when names, salaries, and disciplinary action are discussed...is it confidential.

Sorry Mr Mc..this is a public entity...not like the Nationwide Private club you ran.