Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Requirement to Attend Public Meeting Upheld

An Ohio public body required all attendees at its public meetings to sign in before they were admitted into the meeting.   Plaintiffs filed suit against the public body alleging that the board's sign-in rule violated the Ohio Sunshine Law. Paridon v. Trumbull County Childrens Services Board. The plaintiffs argued that they have an "absolute, unfettered right to attend public meetings" and a public body is not entitled to impose any condition on their right to attend meetings. The circuit court denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction, finding that the sign-in policy did not violate the state's open meeting law. 

The appellate court applied a "limited public forum" analysis, holding that a public body has the right to place limitations on the time, place and manner of access to its meetings, so long as its restrictions are content-neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest. In upholding the sign-in policy, the court cited Hansen v. Westerville City S.D., a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld a public body's policy limiting the overall length of public participation at a meeting, the number of speakers, and the duration of their comments as a permissible time, place, and manner restriction.  First, the County's interest was to protect the children it served.  Second, the sign-in requirement was content-neutral and was not aimed at certain groups or persons, but universally applicable. Third, the policy only required persons to sign his or her name, and the County did not use the information provided on the sign-in sheet. Finally, the court noted that if the legislature had intended to include an anonymity requirement in the open meeting law, it could have done so but no such language was included.  Consequently, the court upheld the trial court's finding that the sign-in requirement was lawful.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


Post a Comment