Upper Arlington City Council doesn't intend to meet or take action through the month of April, but that might change if action is needed and measures are taken to allow public input.

Council last met during a scheduled meeting March 9.

Because of a planned recess for spring break, council didn't hold a conference session March 16, nor did its members convene for a regular meeting March 23.

Meetings are held at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

Council tentatively has canceled April meetings and conference sessions as a precaution related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Council president Kip Greenhill said he hasn't decided if council will depart from those plans and decide to hold conference sessions in April, with each member participating via video teleconferencing.

"If there's a reason for us to meet, it'll probably be in conference sessions electronically," Greenhill said. "Council members would be in their homes."

Council holds conference sessions the first and third Mondays of each month in which members hear staff reports and discuss legislation that's scheduled to come before them at regular meetings, which take place the second and fourth Mondays.

Although conference sessions are open to the public, council typically doesn't take public comment, nor does it usually pass legislation. Those activities most often are reserved for regular meetings.

On March 13, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost issued a letter to school boards, city councils and other local legislative bodies on livestreaming public meetings under a "very limited fact pattern" during the pandemic.

Yost's letter offered guidance and not an official legal position, according to Dave O'Neil, Yost's senior public-information officer. Public bodies should consult with their legal counsels, O'Neil said.

"Ohio's OMA requires public bodies to take official action and conduct all deliberations upon official business in public meetings that are open to the public at all times. (Ohio Revised Code) 121.22," Yost wrote. "When recently asked, I pointed out that the OMA does not contain an exception to the 'in-person' requirement during the time of a declared emergency. R.C. 121.22(C).

"The OMA provides very few exceptions to this requirement."

Yost wrote that local officials may meet in a telephone conference or virtual call but that the public must be able to hear all discussions and deliberations, and if any officials' connection is dropped, the meeting must be suspended until it is restored.

"If a public body gives the public access to a meeting electronically and the members of the body appear telephonically, the body must still ensure that the public is able to hear the discussions and deliberations of all of the members, even those who are present via telephonic means," Yost wrote. "Finally, all other requirements of the OMA will apply, including those that govern notice, executive session and the taking of meeting minutes."

A quorum also must be present, the letter said.

"As a final word of unsolicited, non-legal advice: Please note that the procedure outlined in this letter is meant to address the unique situation that all of Ohio is dealing with," Yost wrote. "Now is not the time to rely on this guidance in order to enact legislation unrelated to the instant emergency that is better reserved for the normal operations of government (e.g. to pass a new tax or enact a new regulatory scheme). It is also important that county prosecutors, local law directors and city attorneys independently research whether there is any case law in their respective jurisdiction that would specifically prohibit the procedure that I have outlined here. This office does not represent local governments, and this letter is offered as guidance regarding our reading of the law."

Greenhill said it's possible council members will determine there's a need to hold a regular meeting and take legislative action in April.

However, he said, such a decision would be made only if immediate legislative action were needed and if the city could ensure the livestream could be broadcast to the public and that the public could provide input.

"If we do need to vote, we'll make sure there is a chance for community input," Greenhill said. "This council and our city administration is very committed to the community input.

"There's a lot of things that would need to be worked out. This is all unchartered territory. But if a vote was necessary -- let's say on some type of purchase -- that the public would also be able to weigh in on a vote."

Greenhill said if such a scenario were to arise, council would consult with the Upper Arlington City Attorney's Office before deciding if a regular meeting would be held and legislative action would be taken.

"The voting is the thing we want more legal input on," he said.

"Our city attorney (Jeanine Hummer) will give us good advice and direction."

Council has broadcast livestreams of its conference sessions and regular meetings via the city's website and Facebook page since June 2018.

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