They are accused of violating the Sunshine Law in Ohio requiring open meetings for governmental bodies. Five members of Cincinnati City Council participated in a conference call and group chat by text to discuss the future of the city manager.
P.G Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard, Wendell Young and Greg Landsman call themselves the new "Gang of Five" running Cincinnati City Hall. Sittenfeld texted to Seelbach that this is "our wedding gift to you and Craig." The majority of Council made it clear they would not support the proposal of the Mayor to buyout the contract of City Manager Harry Black.
During the text messaging, Councilman Wendell Young called the Mayor a "little sucker" and a man "who will lie in a heartbeat." Young made it clear he wanted City Manager Harry Black to stay on the job while Sittenfeld texted he would support the city manager only if he agreed to seek counseling.
After releasing the text messages, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley issued this statement:
"The citizens and city workforce deserve better than being managed by somebody that, according to City Council, has "struggles" that require "counseling." Given the stakes of properly working city services, Council cannot hold the manager to a standard lower than a typical city employee."
A complaint against the council members who participated in the group chat and conference call has already been filed with the State of Ohio. The Attorney General's Open Government Resource Manual makes it very clear that it is a violation of the Sunshine Law for a majority of any governmental body to deliberate about a public issue in private, even if those discussions are over the phone, through group chat or email. Here is an excerpt from page 88 of the manual:
The Ohio Open Meetings Act
"The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies in Ohio to take official action and conduct all deliberations upon official business only in open meetings where the public may attend and observe. Public bodies must provide advance notice to the public indicating when and where each meeting will take place and, in the case of special meetings, the specific topics that the public body will discuss. The public body must take full and accurate minutes of all meetings and make these minutes available to the public, except in the case of permissible executive sessions."
To read all of the text messages exchanged between the members of Cincinnati City Council follow the link below:
Text messages between 5 Cincinnati City Council Members accused of violating Ohio sunshine laws. https://t.co/LMAg8cCp61— Melissa Renee Neeley (@neeleyradionews) April 18, 2018