Worthington News

With new state law

Worthington council adds 'economic development' to closed-door exception

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Certain economic-development issues now may be discussed in private by Worthington City Council.

Under provisions passed during council's June 2 meeting, council may meet in executive session to discuss economic-development assistance applications and negotiations.

From now on, if the city is considering offering some kind of tax break to lure a company to Worthington, details of that deal need not become public information until it is ready to be signed.

According to Worthington law director Pam Fox, who recommended the amendment to the city's ordinance, the city will benefit because companies considering relocation typically do not want to share preliminary ideas regarding relocation, expansion or contracts with competitors or employees.

"Sometimes, information like personal financial statements is shared by applicants seeking assistance," she wrote in a memo to council. "In such cases, it is wise to conduct discussions with council and staff in nonpublic executive sessions prior to taking action in a public setting."

Council approved the amendment 6-0, with Rachael Dorothy absent.

Public-meeting laws are governed by the state and, in Worthington's case, by the city charter.

Last fall, Ohio legislators passed a new law, within House Bill 59, expanding to economic-development assistance discussions the circumstances under which local governing bodies may meet in private.

In general, council is required to do all of its business in public, with certain exceptions.

According to Ohio law (ORC 121.22(G)(8) and the city's charter, topics permitted to be discussed behind closed doors are limited to personnel matters, the purchase of public property, pending litigation, negotiations with public employees, matters required to be kept confidential by federal or state government, security and emergency response issues, and economic development assistance.

Council is required to indicate which issue or issues it plans to discuss before voting to enter into executive session.

After that vote is taken, council leaves the public council chambers and reassembles in a conference room that is closed to the public and the media.

Official actions and votes still must occur during the public portion of the meeting.

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