Those Emails, Texts, and Tweets Qualify As a Public Meeting

For years, I have been advising municipal clients to avoid email and text messages.  Not because I am anti-technology (I could not live without my iPhone), but because of its implication of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.  And last week, the Ohio Supreme Court backed me up.  The issue was simple: whether a series of emails between and among a majority of the members of a public body relating to certain public business qualifies as a “meeting” for purposes of R.C. 121.22.  It does.  As the Court noted, “[n]othing in the plain language of R.C. 121.22(B)(2) expressly mandates that a ‘meeting’ occur face to face.”   To the contrary, the Open Meetings Act defines the term “meeting” as “any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members.”  The Ohio Supreme Court held the Open Meetings Act “prohibits any private prearranged discussion of the public business by a majority of the members of the public body regardless of whether the discussion occurs face to face, telephonically, by video conference, or electronically by e-mail, text, tweet, other form of communication.”   According to the Court, allowing public bodies to avoid the requirements of the Open Meetings Act by discussing public business via serial electronic communication “subverts the purpose of the act.”   See White v. King, 2016-Ohio-2770.