From The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Warren County judge on Friday lambasted Clearcreek Township officials for holding what could be viewed as illegal secret meetings.

“Frankly, I’m going to warn you right now: Don’t operate this way any longer,” Common Pleas Court Judge James Flannery told township officials. “You brought on a litigation that was totally unnecessary.”

Testimony wrapped up Friday in the two-day trial in which township officials are accused of violating the Ohio Open Meetings Act by holding prearranged, informal meetings in Administrator Dennis Pickett’s office a half-hour before the public session to discuss agenda items and other matters.

The law requires that public officials take official action and conduct all “deliberations upon official business” only in open meetings unless the subject matter is specifically exempt by law. It defines meetings as any prearranged discussion of public business that includes a quorum of the public body.

At issue in this case is whether discussions held between a majority of the three-member board during the gatherings qualify as deliberations.

“The issue is, did they do it? And it sounds like they did it. Now I need to know, what are they doing behind closed doors?” Flannery said.

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