ELYRIA – The ACLU of Ohio Foundation demanded today that the Lorain County Commissioners correct their decision to meet in private to discuss the takeover of a local airport. The ACLU sent a letter to the commissioners and the Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor after the commissioners retired to executive session to discuss taking over Lorain County Regional Airport. (Not only did the Commissioners discuss the matter in private, they voted on the matter immediately thereafter.) The ACLU called on the commissioners to bring their actions into line with open meetings laws.
Citing Ohio’s Open Meeting Act, the ACLU called the Commissioners’ action a violation of people’s right to information about decisions that affect them.
“Ohio law provides standards for the public’s right to know what their elected officials are up to,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeff Gamso. “The Lorain County Commissioners violated these standards and in the process withheld important information from the public.”
The ACLU specifically rejected the Commissioners’ claims that secrecy was essential because of “impending litigation.” Since any decision about the airport would require approval by the Common Pleas Court for Lorain County, the Commissioners claimed that there was impending litigation. In the letter, the ACLU points out that “court approval” is distinct from “litigation” and is not encompassed by the exceptions in the Open Meetings Act.
Update: As a result of the ACLU of Ohio's demands, the Commissioners rescinded their previous vote and re-voted, in compliance with Ohio's sunshine laws.