All Councilman Cliffe wanted was to chair a public hearing on a proposal to ban smoking in public areas in the city of Findlay. A group of students from Glenwood Middle School were to present their ideas on the ban as part of a class project.
The proposed smoking ban has been a hot topic of late in the city and an ad hoc committee chaired by Cliffe has been holding a series of public meetings to get community opinion on the issue. The committee has mostly private citizens participating.
Crews from several Toledo television stations showed up to cover the hearing and the students presentation. Toledo’s council passed a smoking ban that has caused a lot of reaction from the bar and restaurant owners there.
Councilman Cliffe, acting on a misunderstanding, decided to kick out the news crews after the student presentation. The city law director had advised Cliffe that the city shouldn’t record the meeting but Cliffe took it to mean that he could close it to the media as well.
He found that wasn’t the case.
A reporter from WTOL 11 in Toledo refused to leave. It was a public meeting concerning a topic of interest to the public. Councilman Cliffe then adjourned the rest of the meeting.
In the Courier report of the incident Cliffe tried to justify his action. He said, “I think it’s very sad that a media group from Toledo has come down and undermined Findlay folks’ opportunity to express their opinion.” and he also thought since the ad hoc committee is mainly comprised of private citizens they shouldn’t have their faces publicized.
He is wrong on both issues.
One great thing about our democracy is that we require our governmental bodies to have their meetings open to the public. The media is part of the public and they report on the meetings for those who can’t attend. Ohio has an open meetings law, aka the “Sunshine Law”, that has been on the books for 30 years. The only governmental meetings that can be closed to the public are those dealing with personnel matters or competitive bids.
If you are a private citizen and don’t want your face in public then don’t participate on governmental committees.
Originally posted on the blog “Hancock County Politics Unfiltered”