Olentangy Valley News

Township bans recording devices from closed sessions

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A resolution to prohibit electronic recording devices in executive sessions of the Orange Township Board of Trustees sparked a testy debate between officials Monday, Nov. 5.

Township Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer said someone recently brought to his attention an email notice from YouTube about a file called "March 5 Executive Session" being uploaded to the video-hosting site. Spitzer said the email indicated the file was uploaded to Trustee Lisa Knapp's YouTube channel.

Knapp responded she was not sure what Spitzer was referring to. "I did not upload any executive session," she said. "There are no executive sessions that are privileged that have been uploaded."

When asked by Knapp for further information about the file, including the content, Spitzer and other township officials could not provide details.

Trustee Rob Quigley said the main point of the resolution is to ensure no recordings are made.

He said multiple people who have attended the closed sessions in recent months have expressed concerns to him about being recorded. He did not identify any of the people. When asked by Knapp, he said he did not know what exactly prompted such concerns.

Ohio law states executive sessions can be held only for certain purposes, including personnel issues, purchase of property and pending or imminent litigation. Such sessions are privileged and confidential. Any executive-session discussions outside of those specified by law could be illegal.

Quigley said approval of the resolution serves the best interest of the township by alleviating concerns that any electronic recording devices, such as cellphones, are present during executive sessions.

Quigley and Trustee Debbie Taranto voted in favor of the resolution, with Knapp abstaining.

While all three trustees voted in favor of separate resolutions calling for township employees and elected officials to use the township email system for their emails, Knapp questioned the need for such a policy.

She said she doesn't object to the resolutions but noted it doesn't prohibit any elected official from using their personal email.

Quigley agreed and added that using the township email system provides the best record-keeping for the township. Using personal emails requires that individual to do the record-keeping, he said.

"We're trying to be proactive," he said.

Knapp asked if there had been any problems with email retention.

Township Administrator Gail Messmer said there had been issues with the fire department, but she did not elaborate.

Taranto added the policy could help protect the township in the event of any possible litigation involving emails as public records.

Also at this week's meeting, trustees approved paying $22,500 to Tree Barber to remove dead ash trees in the rights of way along certain major township roadways. The trees were identified as potential safety hazards along West and East Orange Road, Shanahan Road, North Road, Bale Kenyon Road and Big Walnut Road.

Maintenance and Parks Director Beth Hugh said the money for the tree-eradication program will come from a township maintenance fund.

Knapp asked if any other dead trees in the right of way will be removed and Hugh said they would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Hugh said if the program goes well and weather is good, the dead trees could be removed by the end of the year. She did not know how many trees would be taken down but said there are clusters of dozens of trees in certain areas of those roadways.

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