Transparency not an option in government
Liberty Township trustees were caught last week violating the trust of their constituents after they adjourned to executive session with the announced purpose of discussing employee compensation.
Instead, they proceeded to discuss CARES Act spending and the purchase of a township truck. While employment compensation is an exemption to open meeting requirements, neither of the other topics about spending public money is permitted in a closed-door session.
The officials were caught red-handed when the first part of their executive session discussion was caught on the virtual Zoom meeting feed, and overheard by members of the public who were logged on to view or participate in the meeting.
What’s worse, the township’s attorney, Cherry Poteet, was present at the executive session. Later, after the inappropriate discussion came to light, she apologized publicly, saying that trustees had become “distracted” by the issues during the session.
As an officer of the court, Poteet had a responsibility and an obligation to rein in the trustees and remind them that their actions were a violation of Ohio’s open meeting laws.
Unfortunately, we believe these types of violations are not rare in government operations. We — the public — are expected to have faith and trust in our elected officials, yet it continues to be proven that, when given the opportunity to violate open meeting laws, government takes it.
This is truly unfortunate because when we cannot trust our elected officials on what some might describe as a seemingly minor issue, how can we be expected to trust them on other important public issues?
Sunshine laws were created to guarantee transparency and to ensure that the public is involved in discussions and decisions about their communities. That is not an option — it is the law.
Members of our government must take that to heart.