View from the Cheap Seats: Red lights & lunch money

OK, so I got a ticket. Red light violation. I thought I was through the intersection in time, and I told the officer so, but he disagreed. So I got a ticket. See, when there’s a difference of opinion between the law and the driver, the law wins every time. My wife thought it was hilarious. I thought it was only mildly irritating right up to the point where she made me pay the fine out of my lunch money. That really hurt.

I wish people always did their best to obey the law, and if they violate the law, they pay for it. But that’s not what always happens. A case in point was brought out by Jim Scott at the League of Women Voters Candidate Night at Bay High on the 22nd. Too bad if you missed it, because you would have seen Debbie at her best – eyes rolling, sneering, guns blazing. Her aim was terrible, but she sure used up lots of ammunition – you could hardly see the stage for the smoke!

During the discussions, Jim pointed out that the event that made him decide to run for mayor happened in a closed door executive session of city council on December 10th, 2007. That’s when Debbie Sutherland announced a $1,000,000 budget shortfall. Yea, that’s a million dollars for those of you, like me, who’ve never seen that number on your bank statement. This was a surprise to everyone on city council – even the finance committee (see my previous column where I talk about “responsible fiscal stewardship”).

Now the reason this was a big deal was because the announced purpose of the executive session was “Personnel.” You see, Ohio’s sunshine laws outline (among other things), that very few specific topics allow a public body like city council to have discussions outside public view (an executive session). The topic “personnel” is specifically prohibited – council has to be much more specific in terms of what they’re going to talk about. Another restriction is that no other topic but the announced one can be discussed.

So when Bay Village City Council went into executive session on December 10, 2007 for “Personnel” that was one violation of law, and when Debbie started discussing the budget, that was an even more serious second violation of the law. One of the potential penalties of such action is removal from office. Debbie knows all about the Sunshine Laws, and so does Gary Ebert, but I’m told by people who’ve been in the executive sessions they violate the rules on a routine basis. Why would they risk so much to discuss things in secret? Because they want to keep the public from knowing what’s going on!

Since January 2007, city council has had 122 meetings. In 38 of these meetings (almost a third), they’ve closed the door and held secret talks. On 8 of these secret conclaves, the illegal topic announced was “Personnel” and on at least one occasion, additional illegal topics were addressed – discussions the public should have been able to hear. Remember, such behavior can get both Debbie and Gary thrown out of office – that’s how badly they want to keep their discussions secret!

This is a continuing trend with this administration – keep things secret, violate the rules, cover up the facts. Jim Scott keeps talking about “transparency in government.” This is the kind of behavior he wants to stop. Wish I could keep my red light ticket a secret, but it’s on my record now and there’s nothing I can do about it. And my lunch money is gone – for a whole month! That’s the consequence of me pushing the rules. Wonder what the consequence is going to be for this administration for ignoring the law?

[Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the Bay Village General Discussion forum at]

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 7:02 AM, 09.30.2009