March 12, 2014 10:34:02 AM
This article is a response to Mayor Robert Smith's letter to The Dispatch.
The essence of the editorial in question is that the public is not served by the city's practice of holding non-quorum meetings (four different instances in a month's time, that we know of) and by slowing the process of releasing public information. We stand by those assertions.
The mayor's statement that the city took no actions in their non-quorum meetings is technically correct; however, most recently, city officials used these closed-door meetings to discuss details and make decisions concerning the $1.2 million renovation of Trotter Convention Center. The decisions made during these non-quorum meetings were approved -- with nearly no discussion -- in the next scheduled city council meeting. We believe this practice skirts the intent of the law. We stand by our position that the public has a right to hear these types of discussions, especially in cases like the Trotter project where the scope of the project was so grossly out of line with the project's budget.
Our concern over this practice led The Dispatch to file a complaint with the state ethics commission in late February.
The editorial did incorrectly state that public entities have 14 days to respond to public records requests. They have seven days, a fact which was last week corrected in the online version of the editorial in question. A correction appears in print in today's edition.
We do not suggest the city has ever withheld any formally requested information. We do suggest that refusing to release something so basic as a list of city employees without a public records request is petty and obstructionist.
While The Dispatch recognizes the city's right to require formal requests for information and for them to take up to seven days to provide the requested information, we again emphatically state that these practices are not in the best interest of Columbus' citizens.