Committee meetings remain secret

Policies created in secret expected to be approved in “voluntary” public display

The OneOhio Recovery Foundation board will meet Wednesday at noon at the County Commissioners Association of Ohio building at 209 E. State Street in Columbus.

The 29-member board is a government panel responsible for overseeing a lot of money: 55% of Ohio’s $1 billion opioid settlement.

Harm Reduction Ohio filed two lawsuits Monday alleging the board is not complying with open meetings and public records laws, as required by the OneOhio opioid settlement agreement and Ohio law.

The meeting on Wednesday will be the fourth time the 29-member board has met. The board says it will voluntarily allow the public to watch the meeting, although it claims the public has no right to do so. The public has been forbidden from addressing the board at the previous three meetings and the latest agenda indicates public comment will again be forbidden.

The board has done most of its work so far in secret committees. The public is not told what committees exist, who’s on the committees, when the committees meet or what the committees do.

The board claims it has the right to operate via secret committees because it claims to be exempt from open meetings rules and public records law. (The foundation has not yet applied for, much less received, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The board further claims it can ignore the opioid settlement’s plain-language requirement that the foundation must follow open meetings and public records law, even if it does obtain tax-exempt status.)

On Monday, the board (voluntarily) released an information packet provided to the full board in advance of Wednesday’s meeting. (The foundation claims the public has no right to the  board information packet or to attend the meeting but that, at the board’s discretion, it is providing limited information to support its claim of “transparency.”)

“The OneOhio opioid settlement board is now in session.”

Secret Committee Meetings

The board’s agenda and information packet show many policies developed in secret that the full board will be asked to approve.

The foundation’s secret committees appear to have developed policies for:

  • investing
  • personel
  • transparency 🙂
  • inclusion
  • procurement
  • conflict of interest
  • ethics
  • budget
  • whistleblowing
  • bylaws
  • gift acceptance
  • and so much more!

Irony committee

Given the committee assignments  listed above, the foundation appears well-positioned for a committee on irony.

The irony committee could work with the “inclusion” committee to explain how a 29-member board that has one Black member, no Hispanic or Asian members, no members who lost a loved on to opioids or who is in recovery from opioids, is a wonderful example of inclusion at its finest.

In defense of the board’s inclusiveness, we must note that it does have 14 (White) elected officials as members, along with three retired elected officials, 6 government employees and four private members that include the wife of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. I think you’ll agree that, when a board includes not just elected officials but also three retired elected officials and the spouse of an elected official, that is an example of diversity and inclusion at its most excellent. (Note: The irony committee approved this sentence,)

The irony committee could also support the “transparency” committee by making sure things are done in secret while the $10,000-a-month lobbyist hired at the last meeting handles public relations explaining how “secrecy is transparency,” just as everyone knows war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance us strength.

The irony committee could suggest that the $10,000-a-month lobbyist could bill $1,984 at a time. (Sadly, though, because the public has no right to see invoices or how money is spent, the irony and wit of the OneOhio opioid settlement team would go unnoticed.)

Executive Session

In late breaking irony, the foundation board just released a revised agenda in which the first item to be considered is whether to go into Executive Session (i.e., a private meeting that excludes the public).

This is a fascinating development because the executive session likely is to discuss the Sunshine law lawsuits filed by Harm Reduction Ohio against the board.

The irony committee is much needed for this development. Under the Ohio Open Meetings Act, a public body must state the reason it is going into secret “Executive Session.” For example, a public body would vote to go into Executive Session for discussions “with an attorney for the public body concerning disputes involving the public body that are the subject of pending or imminent court action. (Direct quote: Open Meetings Act, Ohio Revised Code 121(G)(3))

However, to give a legal reason for going into Executive Session implicitly concedes the obvious: the board is covered by the Ohio Open Meetings Act.

The OneOhio foundation’s position is that it can exclude the public from any meeting, at any time, for any reason. So if the foundation declines to give a reason for the Executive Session, the board is essentially doubling down on its extraordinary claim that it can control a half billion dollars in government money without the public having a right to know anything.

TheOneOhio Irony Committee is going to have a very busy day!

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