MeetingGate

By Ramzy Nasrallah on June 23, 2011 at 11:00a
40 Comments

Early this morning, WBNS ran a story that suggested Ohio State's Board of Trustees violated Ohio's Open Meetings Act by conducting a closed-door meeting:

More than half of Ohio State University's trustees met privately for much of the day yesterday with other university officials, and board Chairman Leslie H. Wexner said NCAA compliance issues were discussed at some point.

Such discussions involving trustees in a closed meeting appear to be a violation of Ohio's public-meetings laws.

Ohio law is not ambiguous at all about what constitutes a public meeting:

The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies in Ohio to conduct all public business in open meetings that the public may attend and observe. This means that if a public body is meeting to discuss and vote on or otherwise decide public business, the meeting must be open to the public.

What WBNS jumped on was that Les Wexner mentioned that NCAA compliance issues were discussed.

Ohio State's ongoing NCAA troubles are no mystery to anyone, let alone its Board of Trustees.  Conducting any meeting without even mentioning the story of the day would be more than ignoring the elephant in the room.  This elephant has explosive diarrhea.  The NCAA came up.  It had to.

But if that wasn't the purpose of the meeting, and if no decisions were made specific to what could be interpreted as the public's business, then the Open Meetings Act does not apply.  This is exactly what OSU President Gordon Gee said in clarifying what Wexner had communicated:

"(OSU AD Gene Smith) was talking about some of the issues that we deal with as part of the institution. We'll call in other people over the next period of time...We're talking about issues that affect the university in terms of its strategy, (and) that is not part of the board discussion. This is part of a strategy discussion."

Which means there's no story, because there was no Open Meetings Act violation.  However, journalists are on heightened alert and in full feeding-frenzy mode regarding anything Ohio State, so WBNS decided that it couldn't be satisfied with Gee's explanation:

Marion Little, a Columbus lawyer who specializes in public-access and records issues, said strategy discussions are not an exemption under state law.

"It looks like a public meeting squarely within the meaning of the Open Meetings Act," said Little, who represents The Dispatch, WBNS-10TV and other clients in public-access issues.

"It's disappointing that the university excluded the public from this, particularly given the significant public interest in recent events at Ohio State."

Wow, WBNS went all the way down the hall to get its own attorney to support its "illegal private meeting" angle.  Her His evidence for this position?  None.

Instead of relying on WBNS's story and its own attorney's interpretation, make your own decision based on what Ohio law says as well as your own common sense. 

Earlier this morning I was in a meeting where we talked about the tornado that touched down last night in Churchill Downs.  HOWEVER: The meeting was not about the weather. 

We had a lot of other stuff going on, as I'm sure the OSU BOT did when they got together last night in private - legitimately - to discuss university strategy.

It will be another disappointment for the local media in Columbus when MeetingGate joins CarGate on the scrap heap of manufactured scandal created solely to ride the publicity wave created by Ohio State's legitimate misgivings.

However, WBNS shouldn't be too disappointed.  They get to work in Ohio, a state that actually has an Open Meetings Act.  The Boards of Trustees for both of the two SEC schools in Alabama aren't required to operate as publicly as Ohio State's does.  "MeetingGate" is a legally-sanctioned impossibility there.

40 Comments

Comments

Bucks's picture

Ramzy,

How could you possibly believe legal representation for WBNS would back their own story, regardless of merit. That would just be silly. :P

 

BuckeyeSki's picture

This is just another example of "journalists" trying to make a name by breaking the next big chapter in the tOSU scandal saga. Its getting ridiculous. ESPN has a poll asking which univeristy, UNC or tOSU, is facing more serious allegations, and its 70/30 in favor of tOSU. The constant media attention (some warranted) is swaying perception in the most negative of ways....

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

btalbert25's picture

Being one of the 10 winningest programs in Division I football brings a lot of hate.  A lot of it.  We know there is a whole region of the country and a state up north that basically despises anything OSU and have for decades.  I remember 15 years ago being lectured by a man in his 40's that Ohio State was not as good as his beloved Vols because teams up north don't have the speed and athletes that SEC schools do.  I was 15 years old, and this guy was piling it on.  So, if there is a poll on a network that involves a blueblood in the sport(most are hated) and a program that isn't even popular on it's on campus, you will get results like this.  People want to hate Ohio State just like they want to hate UNC football. 

If ESPN had a poll about Duke basketball against any other program, most people are going to vote against Duke because they are HATED.  Most reasonable people can look at the allegations against both schools and say wow UNC is way worse, but their hate for the program will make them click the OSU bubble, just to piss us as a fan base off.

Bucks's picture

I had to look for myself to see that 70/30 split. Unbelievable. Just goes to show how media coverage can drive opinion. UNC is facing absolute insanity with their violations. There is no comparison.

Scott K's picture

Hey, does someone have a link to that ridiculous espn poll? I can't seem to find it...

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

BuckeyeSki's picture

http://espn.go.com/college-football/

Bottom left of the page

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Irricoir's picture

The map makes us look delusional.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Nappy's picture

I understand were seemingly the team everyone loves to hate, but how can you rationally look at each situation and think UNC committed fewer infractions?  Media scrutiny probably has a factor in shaping opinions, but this seem more like a witch hunt than anything else.

[Edit: The results of a witch hunt]

 

Fan of bacon since 1981

Scott K's picture

thanks ski, can't believe i didn't scroll down far enough to find it on my own...

On the bright side, the great state of Alaska is 100% on our side (all 2 of them)

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

Jason Priestas's picture

YOU'RE WITH US, ALASKA!

RoweTrain's picture

I don't know exactly what that espn poll showed for Maine, but we're with you too! Only because I'm the #1 representative from this state (and OHIOinME as well). Between me and my fam, plus OHIOinME, we got you covered!

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Speaking of WBNS, one time I saw Dom Tiberi in a restroom at sears at the tuttle mall. He didn't wash his bands.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

NC_Buckeye's picture

Have you guys seen this yet?
http://www.theclevelandfan.com/ohio-state-buckeyes/3-buckeye-archive/8266-buckeye-leaves

How pissed off are the haters on OTE going to be with this penalty?

Multiple years of probation. (they can do that standing on their heads...the NCAA has been sitting in their living room for three months now).  Vacate 2010 wins and Big Ten title. One year bowl ban. No scholarship losses. 

I. Am. Going. To. Laugh. My. Ass. Off.

Biggy tried to prep them for it the other day and was basically called an idiot troll.

 

NC_Buckeye's picture

One other thing though.

Bowl ban translates into the B1G disqualifying us from playing in the initial B1G CCG. Which bums me out because I see this as one of the few scenarios by which Fickell would keep the HC position.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I think he can keep the job by getting 9 or 10 wins and punching Grady Hoke in the mouth. Maybe he sends the guys out this year to rip the banner down.

 

 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Irricoir's picture

I am not familiar with the rules but I question what a bowl ban has to do with determining whom the best team in the conference is? Were not banned from winning a conference championship are we? Just because we may not be able to go to a bowl game? That wouldn't make any sense to me and sounds a bit like double jeopardy. What sense is there in giving your all (Other tan personal pride and to get to the nfl) in a season if you have 0 chance at reaching the pinnacle? I don't care who the Big Ten sends to a bowl game in our stead or if the Big Ten loses money because they can't send us, the Big Ten Champions, to Pasadena and TCU has to go in there and win it against Oregon in our stead. If we are the best team in the Big Ten then we should be in the Championship game. Period. I am sure there are a lot of laws and things that I am not familiar with but my perception just makes sense to me.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

It's not a bowl ban, it's a post season ban. That's why we wouldn't be permitted in the CCG.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

As much as Ilike OTE because it can serve as a place to get an outisde view, I have been hating it the past few months becuase it's just been a piling on by butt-hurt Iowa and PSU fans.

 

I would take that penalty in a heart beat.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

NC_Buckeye's picture

I said it to Ski the other day. I love that you and him basically went on offense as far as the OTE comment threads. You two irritate the crap out of those clowns. And it didn't go unnoticed by me that the SPU'ers stopped posting soon after that. Keep up the good fight... you defender of liberty.

I agree Iowa fans are tired of being little brother also-rans. SPU'ers had delusions of grandeur when they entered the league; welcome to the real world. Neither team can win games so they'll settle for tearing us down instead.

I hope Wismar is right on his penalty prediction. There will be much gnashing of teeth and tearing of clothes on OTE by these sanctimonious d-bags. And I'll be the one pasting pictures of movie-goers eating popcorn.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Someone has to punch back, right?

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

biggy84's picture

I agree NC. You try and point out facts that oppose them and you are a troll. Iowa must be one boring miserable place.

NC_Buckeye's picture

Don't want to give the wrong impression. On the whole, I like OTE. But like SBB, I came to the conclusion that most of the hate in the comments was coming from Iowa and Penn State fans. I hope Fickell is a thorn in their sides for many years to come.

You can't reason with those guys Biggy. You might as well not even try. August should be an interesting month. Hopefully, it pans out the way we're thinking it will.

biggy84's picture

I don't even bother going on there anymore. Their debate on whether cheerleading is a sport was the final nail. I wanted to like the site, but the barrage of iowa dorks and such was too much. It seemed to be a gossip clique session instead of sports talk. That's just my take though. Thanks for the support and i enjoy your posts.

biggy84's picture

Thank you for noticing!

theDuke's picture

Will the Columbus Disgrace please quit trying to be a "reputable news source"!  Once again, more headlines about... NOTHING. I wish Lulzsec would hack them and the NCAA. That would be the best mid term christmas present ever.

theDuke

btalbert25's picture

At this point, I don't know that I want Fickel to be the long term solution at head coach.  I'm not saying he can't be that option, but why not let him prove it.  The defense alone on this team is going to be good enough for 8 wins on this schedule no matter who is coaching.  There's more too it than just Wins and Losses.  Let him prove that this job should be his.  If they win 8 or 9, but the wins are uninspiring, and there 3 or 4 losses are horrible, then he should get the job. 

We need to see what he's made of.  I want him to prove it first before I say, yes I want him to lead this team for the next 5 years.  Until we actually see what his product on the field does, I'm not interested in what we think he needs to do. 

NC_Buckeye's picture

Without an OC, I don't see the current coaching staff being able to produce dominating wins. If you want him to prove what he can do, then let him have the tools (i.e. an offensive staff) to show you what he can do. Give him a contract and more than one year. Otherwise, you're basically flushing what many consider a very talented guy for no reason other than that he loves this university and didn't choose to prove himself at another school first.

BTW when I wrote "you", I was referring to the administration and not you specifically BT.

btalbert25's picture

That's why I say wins and losses shouldn't be the only guage.  Let's just see how the team looks out there.  Also, he can allow for the team to be a bit more aggressive on offense than what JT allowed.  I'm not saying he's going to get a fair audition.  I'm just saying we have no idea what kind of head coach he's going to turn out to be.  If the sanctions end up not being that bad, and the program only has one real year of set backs, I'd like to start fresh in 2012 with a coach that is very capable of taking this team back to the BCS and all the success they are used to.  Is it Fickel?  It very well could be.  I just want to see how the team responds to him.  How focused th ey are on the field, how he conducts himself on the sidelines and after games.  What kind of in game managing he can do etc.  Let him prove he's worthy of the job is all I'm saying.  No doubt in his carreer he's been a nice recruiter and great for the D, but those roles are certainly much much different than head coach of a major program.  That's all I'm saying.

NC_Buckeye's picture

I'd agree with this except for the fact that Bollman was an OC in name only and it was Tressel calling the plays. What we're going to have this year under Bollman is what we've seen in the past. The defense is going to stay on the field the whole game (the Boeckman era) and basically wear down at the end. So we'll probably lose 3-4 (5?) by a touchdown because there's no one at the helm offensively. Fickell is never going to get a chance at in-game management.

Would that be different with a legitimate OC? Damn straight it would. We have the offensive player talent to make things interesting. Just not offensive coaching talent.

Here's what I'm saying. Maybe Meyer or Gruden or some other big name would have us back to BCS level in a year or two... and then he re-retires in five years deciding he liked being a broadcaster better. We'd basically be back at the same point we are now.

Or maybe with Fickell, we get back to BCS level in four or five years (because he has to learn how to steer this big-time program -- all the stuff you mention above). And then we are competing at BCS level for the next thirty or thirty-five years.

How much would you enjoy Fickell knocking off JoePa for the most career victories? Ski would torment those imbeciles.

btalbert25's picture

Since JT was the actual guy calling the plays, how do we know what kind of Coordinator Bollman is?  JT had the final say.  Maybe Bollman isn't as bad as we think.  I don't know.  There's just way to know for sure until he coaches.  I would rather have one of the other guys for 5 years, and hand the keys to someone like a proven Fickel, than have a horrible run for 5 years and be desperate for anyone but Fickel. 

At this point, there's no way to tell what kind of outcome we'll have because the man has never coached a down as head coach.  I'd like to see his product before handing him the keys to the program.  We'll be lucky enough to have that option this season.  There is a very real possibility that the offense will be better.

Maestro's picture

pfftttt

vacuuming sucks

CBE's picture

Ramzy, love your stuff and think you do some of the best and most intelligent work out there.  I am a lawyer in Chicago, but grew up in a Columbus suburb and went to Ohio St and have been a fan all my life.  Read your post above and wanted to raise a few issues.

First, in the interests of accuracy, Marion Little is a he.  Also, he is not in-house counsel at WBNS or Dispatch.  He's outside counsel at one of the most elite (if not most elite) law firms in Columbus, and his firm has been retained by WBNS, Dispatch, as well as many other large companies, to represent them in all kinds of matters.  As such, saying he's "down the hall" is a little misleading.  WBNS and the Dispatch are among his clients (which WBNS disclosed), but it is not like they are citing the statement of an employee who works in the building.  Not saying he isn't their lawyer, but just making clear the relationship.

Second, your cite to Ohio "law" I think is taken from the Ohio AG FAQ page you linked to; I did not see it anyplace in The Ohio Open Meeting Act or any cite to that language in the Sunshine law manual put out by the State.  I agree that your interpretation of that answer to the Frequently Asked Question is spot on, but not sure that is the whole story. If you look at the Ohio Sunshine law manual itself, the critical issue here seems to be the definition of a "meeting" and whether or not "the public business" is being discussed at a meeting including a majority of the members of a public body.  Here there was clearly a meeting, nobody is debating a majority of the Trustees were present, and so the only issue is whether the purpose of the meeting on Wednesday night was to "discuss public business." 

In the context of The Ohio Open Meetings Act, "'discussion' is the exchange of words, comments or ideas by the members of a public body; 'deliberation' means the act of weighing and examining reasons for and against a choice."  The Sunshine manual goes on to state: "In evaluating whether particular gatherings of public officials constituted “meetings,” several courts have opined that the Ohio Open Meetings Act “is intended to apply to situations where there has been actual formal action taken; to wit, formal deliberation concerning the public business.”  (See pp. 82-83)  Taking into account the intentionally broad definitions of "discussion" and "deliberation" under the Act, I think there is a pretty good argument that if there was back-and-forth between members of the BOT examining reasons on this subject that that gathering was a "meeting" under the OOMA.  Even if this was not a formal meeting but a wide-ranging working session or something like that, such a gathering is covered under the law.  "'Work sessions' or 'workshops' are 'meetings' when public business is discussed among a majority of the members of a public body at a prearranged time.  These work sessions must be open to the public, properly noticed, and minutes must be maintained, just as with any other meeting."  (Sunshine Manual p. 83). 

I don't practice in this area and am not even admitted in Ohio, so I am largely reading this stuff just like you are.  I could be completely wrong and I'm not providing legal advice.  That said, my quick read is that Little and WBNS are not so far off in their assertions as you've portrayed and they may have a point.  I agree with your last paragraph regarding the great state of Ohio and the privilege we have to live in a place with Sunshine laws which permit the community to know what officials at public institutions are doing on our behalf.  I don't think transparency is ever a bad thing.  I also get the emotional response to the continual piling on by the media to everything Ohio State has been doing and can see why this seems like a continuation of a narrative, and part of a strategy by local media to break the big story even where there isn't one.  Just my two cents.
 

Irricoir's picture

Thanks for clarifying some things but that was boring as hell. Looking forward to your breakdown of some upcoming games with your thoroughness on display.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

CBE's picture

Agree re boring.  I couldn't even read the whole thing myself....  Just thought it might be interesting for people who care what the rules are on this stuff (admittedly that is the same small group who find the tax code fascinating, TiVo PBS, and left high school without kissing a girl).  Looking forward to participating on the board.  This site is awesome.

biggy84's picture

Welcome! Do i owe you $250 for the info?

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

1. His fault for being named Marion.  I was thinking of the sprinter lady who went to the clink for cheating.

2. I am the only one here allowed to be this long-winded and verbose.  Seriously, watch it with that crap.

3. Per the Sunshine Manual excerpts you cited, WBNS's case is still highly speculative.  You're basically at the word of the BOT re: what they're discussing, which means every time they have a closed-door meeting (which is allowed) WBNS could run with the exact - same - story.  They did so this time because OMG OHIO STATE PAGEVIEWS.

4. I realized it wasn't in-house counsel.  Poor choice of words by me to symbolize how "far" they went to get a supportive legal opinion, i.e. one that they knew would serve the purpose of their deliberate OMG PAGEVIEWS goal.

Appreciate the education.  If Marion is reading this, dude, my bad.  I've been told by our eyes and ears that you could kick my ass quite easily without using your hands or feet.