The meeting I showed up for twice to attend once yesterday was my quadrennial open records and open meetings training. Government in Ohio cannot operate behind closed doors, and considering the number of, what a former Auditor of State liked to call scallywags have been sent to prison in the last several years, it doesn't.
Collectively the statutes are called Sunshine Laws. In reality it’s a framework backed up by a lot of case law, or the interpretation of the statutes by the courts. I have to take the three plus hours of training once every term; once every four years. For one reason or another, this was the fourth training session I've endured and I’m on my third four year term.
It seems I have inflicted unnecessary punishment on myself, when in fact I tried to make up for the fact that in spite of my many appearances I never received the certificate of attendance. No gold seal on a paper proving my attendance at a required training.
Why do I care, you ask? Because not taking required training is a nick at an audit, and we know I like to be in charge of what nicks I receive and do not receive. This year, by damn, I have the parking receipt, and I dare anyone to tell me I spent four hours freezing in the Akron Public Library auditorium on that date, at that time, for any reason other than Open Records and Open Meetings training.
I had to put together a statement of my township’s public records policy several years ago, to be displayed in a prominent place. I wasted no time; I went straight to the State Attorney General’s website and copied his, word for word. Good for the goose, good for the gander. Another village down the line decided to borrow my fine piece of workmanship, and brought to my attention I had a policy about pubic records.
I do wonder why elected officials who have training under their belts must continue to attend, as the last change to the law was in 2007. That one made the birthday of an elected official a public record. If the request is for the birthdays of all elected officials in my township and the record is not available in a report I regularly keep, I do not have to scurry through personnel records and construct a list. If the request is for one birthday, I would have to open the drawer and produce it.
I don’t consider all this training valuable to stay abreast of what trumps what. It boils down to, if the public wants it, the public gets it, and it cannot clear my desk too soon. If the trustees decide on an unscheduled meeting, I notify the press before I leave the building. If they call executive session for a nebulous reason I turn to legal counsel and ask if we can proceed. If they go ahead nebulously, I document it. We pay auditors a lot of money to find that stuff.
A scalawag with his own sunshine laws