Libby Wetherholt, Clintonville Area Commission chairwoman, recently raised the possibility of an executive session for the group's June 15 organizational meeting -- and raised some eyebrows along with it.
She noted in a June 5 email that the Ohio Revised Code allows for closed gatherings.
The responses -- for and against her suggestion -- poured in immediately.
"For the proposed executive session, it is not sufficient to offer general language," said former Franklin County commissioner and U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, a Clintonville resident. "You need to offer a specific reason that qualifies as an exemption under the code."
Those reasons, according to state law, may include the hiring or firing of an employee; the purchase or sale of property for public purposes; and matters required by law to be kept confidential.
Jim Brobst, a former CAC member, said the idea of closed meetings brought back "old, unpleasant memories."
"I was the CAC commissioner for District 3 many years ago and had to fight hard for open CAC meetings," he said. "When I joined the commission, the planning committee met in someone's living room and attendance was by invitation only. I kid you not."
Several other residents said they wanted to know why the CAC would need to hold an executive session.
The outpouring led Wetherholt to explain why she raised the possibility.
Although the vote for officers is not taken during the annual organizational gathering, Wetherholt wrote in an email that members discuss who is willing to take on these duties and who isn't.
"During these discussions, commissioners might want to share personal information of their life or of their family's -- situations which they might not want to share publicly," she said. "In an executive session, members can be more candid than they might want to be with a reporter or the public in the room.
"It is for this reason that I wanted to have the option to hold part of the special meeting in an executive session.
"The Ohio Revised Code specifically states topics that may be discussed in executive session. One of those topics is the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of an employee or official. The office of the Columbus City Attorney advises that our executive session would qualify under this proviso."
Former CAC Chairman Kristopher Keller said he supports Wetherholt.
"I didn't but probably should have," he said of calling an executive session during his years on the panel. "I think that there are times where personal matters about an individual, sharing with the group just to increase understanding, is very helpful, and yet those are things that may not need to be heard publicly because it doesn't affect the outcome of public policy, but it helps a deeper understanding within the organization of what's going on with an individual.
"People can be more open than they could be in a public forum."
Outgoing District 9 representative D Searcy disagreed.
"I'm not sure why she thinks it's necessary," Searcy said. "I don't recall ever having an executive session in the 12 years I was on the commission. We are a commission and we're supposed to be open to the community."
B.J. White, who will replace Searcy at the July 7 meeting, approves of the proposal.
"We've got two new people, myself included, coming in," White said. "If you want to take a step back, reassess everyone's skill set and put the best person in the best possible role ... that could be the reason why everyone voted 'yes' to hold an executive session."
Wetherholt said the entire discussion could end up being irrelevant.
"Although I have given notice that we may go into executive session, I do not know that it is needed or even if the majority of the commissioners will vote for it," she said. "I have simply given the commission the opportunity to have that option."
The annual organizational session is set for 7 p.m. June 15 at the Whetstone branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 3909 N. High St.