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Seelbach Won't Block Mayor's Veto Of Closed-Door Meeting Ban

Chris Seelbach
Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati Council member Chris Seelbach says he won’t vote to override Mayor John Cranley’s veto of a proposed charter amendment that would allow city council to meet behind closed doors to discuss some issues.

Seelbach, a Democrat, was one of six council members to vote recently to put the charter amendment on the November ballot; and six votes would have been needed to override the mayor’s veto.

Seelbach told WVXU he has decided he can’t go along with the concept of executive sessions that exclude the press and public.

“I believe our city runs well without an executive session,’’ Seelbach said. “While there are legitimate moments when a legislative body would benefit from executive sessions, including security updates around major events and City Hall, it is something to be proud of that Cincinnati does all of its business in public and prohibits a veil of secrecy that would be abused or increase suspicion and distrust.”

Cranley, in vetoing the charter amendment last week, said he believes the closed-door meetings would create the impression of a secret government.

The charter amendment for closed-door council meetings was one of four presented to council by the majority of a 24-member Charter Review Task Force appointed last year by council’s Rules and Audit Committee to review the city charter and recommend charter amendments for the ballot.

Seelbach said that, at first, “I supported putting all the recommended options to the voters, letting them make the ultimate decision.”

“However, the mayor and four members of council decided to protect the abused ‘pocket veto’ and prevent voters from removing this unintentional and unpopular power, which has been criticized as a mistake in the charter for years.”

The so-called “pocket veto” gives the mayor the ability to simply keep  legislative items off the council agenda – in effect, “putting them in his pocket.”

The “executive session” charter amendment vetoed by Cranley would have allowed closed-door meetings for specific purposes, including the city manager’s performance review, purchases or sales of public property, City Hall security, and some economic development agreements.

Council may consider giving council the ability to initiate the firing of the city manager. There may not  be a veto-proof majority for that. 

Tuesday afternoon, council is expected to take up the Charter Review Task Force’s relatively non-controversial recommendation for a charter amendment on the November ballot that would change the city’s mayoral primary from September to May. 

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.
Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.