The Times-Gazette found Friday that all three Highland County commissioners met this week with the county auditor and treasurer to gather information from another official on a Clinton County land bank.
We were immediately concerned, since there was no 24-hour notice of the gathering, and there was certainly a quorum of a governing body.
But, according to the county prosecuting attorney and the Ohio Attorney General’s Sunshine Law manual, the meeting was legal because commissioners only gathered information from the land bank official for their own reference, and, according to commissioners President Jeff Duncan, they did not deliberate on public business.
It seems harmless enough. But, put simply, we don’t like it. Here’s why: As journalists, closed doors make us uncomfortable.
Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said Highland County voters “trusted (the commissioners) enough to vote them into office, so it’s not a stretch that we trust that they’ll follow the law.”
She makes a valid point. We may trust that our elected officials have the integrity to follow the law even behind closed doors, but we believe simple accountability is better than blind trust.
If nothing sensitive is on the table, why not meet in public session? And if a matter is protected by law, why not meet in executive session, where the public is entitled to at least a vague explanation of what’s being discussed?
Jeff Duncan, Gary Abernathy and Terry Britton are good commissioners. In the name of transparency, we hope they will carefully consider this editorial before arranging these types of gatherings in the future.