The first legal challenge to Cuyahoga County’s transition to a charter government hit the docket last week when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the architects of the transition. At issue is the leaders’ alleged failure to comply with Ohio’s open-records or “sunshine” laws.
The lawsuit shatters the county record for Fastest Allegation of Misconduct Against a Newly Created Government; the previous mark was set in 1809 for unlawful use of a county horse for private business.
The ACLU contends that the county has wrongly withheld documents about the formation and workings of the transition’s executive committee, an overseeing body made up of public officials and business executives. Scene wrote about the ACLU’s concerns in the April 14 story “Some Sunshine but Mostly Cloudy.”
Comments from the ACLU after the jump.
The group threatened to sue in February after transition leaders announced on a local radio program that not all of their work would take place in public — a claim that left some wondering how this arrangement represents a step away from the county’s time-honored tradition of commissioners whispering behind closed doors. Transition leaders responded with a pledge to keep the process open.
But the ACLU’s suit is a direct response to a March ruling made by Cuyahoga County’s chief civil lawyer, who decreed that the executive committee is not a public body subject to open-records law, and therefore is free to extend a middle finger to those hoping to learn what they’re up to.
“From the new charter’s inception, transition leaders have promised transparency to the public,” says Christine Link, the ACLU’s Ohio director. “Unfortunately, they continue to ignore the people’s demand for full access by maintaining that the law does not apply to them.”