Legal Brief: This group won't let me in their meeting. Under the Ohio Open Meetings Act, how do I know if a group is a "public body"?
Q: This group won’t let me in their meeting. Under the Ohio Open Meetings Act, how do I know if a group is a “public body”?
A: The Ohio Open Meetings Act is based upon the principle that public bodies are appointed and formed for the benefit of the people and that the people have a constitutional right to attend their meetings. The Ohio Open Meetings Act statute, Ohio Rev. Code §121.22, states that a “public body” is “any board, committee or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution or authority and any legislative authority, board, commission, committee, agency, authority or similar decision-making body of a county, township, municipal corporation, school district or other political subdivision or local public institution or any subcommittee of a public body, or any committee or subcommittee thereof.” For example, the Kent State University Board of Trustees is a public body and conducts meetings that fall under the Ohio Open Meetings Act.
The first step is to examine the group that is meeting and determine whether they are a “public body” for the purposes of the act, or whether the body is exempt under Ohio Rev. Code §121.22(D). For example, the judicial system uses grand juries, and a grand jury is a public body, but is also exempt from the Ohio Open Meetings Act. If a group does match the statute’s requirement and is a “public body,” the next step is to determine whether the particular meeting itself meets the Act’s requirements. The meeting must be a: (1) prearranged gathering, (2) of a majority of the members of the public body, () to discuss or conduct public business. If it doesn’t meet these three requirements, the meeting is not subject to the Ohio Open Meetings Act.
You can learn more about the Ohio Open Meetings Act — as well as the Ohio Public Records Act by visiting the Ohio’s Open Government Resource Manual online.