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State auditor: Columbus City Council may have violated Open Meetings Act

Columbus City Hall
David Holm

Ohio Auditor Keith Faber's office has sent a letter to Columbus City Council that it may have violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

The letter dated May 1 says that information the auditor received suggests that multiple council members discussed a resolution on the Israel-Hamas war outside a public meeting.

The auditor's letter cites an Instagram post by Councilmember Christopher Wyche mentioned in a March Columbus Dispatch article.

That Instagram post said that Wyche's office coordinated with other offices in trying to craft a ceasefire resolution.

"This gives the clear appearance that members of Council either circulated draft resolution language via hard copy or electronically among themselves, and/or had discussions about draft resolution language among themselves with the goal of reaching consensus on final language, prior to debating, deliberating, and voting on a resolution during a public meeting," said the letter signed by Chief Deputy Auditor Robert Hinkle.

The letter cites a section of state law that says official or formal actions taken in open session are invalid if discussions improperly occurred outside the meeting.

"The act requires that not only the final vote be public, but also that the entire process be transparent to the public," the letter said.

City Council ultimately voted 9-0 on March 25 on a resolution that called for a "sustained and mutual end to hostilities in Gaza."

The auditor's letter said that Faber's office has not attempted to confirm the accuracy of the allegations.

"Please be aware that if they are true, the activity needs to cease and desist immediately," it said.

"We trust the City of Columbus’s able City Attorney will take this opportunity to provide training on and reinforce the requirements of the (Open Meetings Act) with all of Columbus City Council," it said.

City Council spokesperson Jose Rodriguez had no comment on the auditor's letter.