Ohio Supreme Court says board member use of e-mails may violate Sunshine Law


In a much-publicized ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court has held that school board members who make a decision about a school-related matter " in a series of e-mail exchanges" can be found in violation of the Ohio Sunshine Law (ORC 121.22). In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a lower court ruling which had found that the Sunshine Law simply did not apply to "sporadic e-mails" between public officials. The syllabus of the Supreme Court's decision declared broadly that the Ohio Sunshine Law

"prohibits any private prearranged discussion of the public business by a majority of members of a public body regardless of whether discussion occurs face to face, telephonically, by video conference, or electronically by e-mail, text, tweet, or other form of communication." White v. King, 2016 Ohio 2770 (May 3, 2016).

Justice Lanzinger and O'Connor, dissenting, took issue with the wide-open definition of "meeting" which the majority had created, believing that the kind of "meetings" prohibited by the Sunshine Law are "events or gatherings at which real-time communications can occur." They further warned that the "unintended consequences of broadening the word "meeting" beyond its current definition could affect adversely how members of public bodies do their business."

The full opinion of the Court can be access by following this link

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