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Council Overrides Mayor's Veto of Ballot Issue Allowing Closed-Door Meetings

john cranley
John Minchillo
John Cranley speaks to the media as emergency personnel and police work the scene of a shooting Thursday near Fountain Square. Council had to hold a meeting that day because Friday is the deadline for the city to submit issues for the November ballot.

Cincinnati City Council over-rode a mayoral veto of a ballot issue Thursday that would allow council to hold closed-door sessions under certain circumstances.

The vote was 8-1, with only Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman backing Mayor John Cranley's veto.

Council had to do it at Thursday's meeting, because Friday is the deadline for the city to submit city charter amendments issues for the November 6th ballot.

The ballot issue would bring Cincinnati in line with most Ohio cities, where councils can meet in private on sensitive issues but not act on them.

Cranley says the idea of a public body being able to meet privately is just philosophically wrong.

"Louis Brandeis, the great Supreme Court justice, said 'Sunlight is the best disinfectant,' '' Cranley told council after the vote Thursday. "One of my favorite musicals, Hair, 'Let The Sunshine In.' ''

If Cincinnati voters pass the charter change, council could meet privately to discuss personnel matters, litigation and real estate sales. They could meet in private on those matters, but they could only act on them in sessions open to the public.

Council only needed six votes to override Cranley's veto.

Cranley says the absence of closed-door meetings has assured that Cincinnati has had such a good government since the council-manager form of government came along in the 1920s.

"We have a history of clean government since the reforms of 1925 without the corruption you see elsewhere,'' Cranley said.  

Council member David Mann, who served on council in the 1970s and '80s and returned five years ago, has worked under both sets of rules – a charter provision that allowed closed-door meetings and the present one that does not.

Mann has argued that the public good is harmed by the inability of council to discuss sensitive issues in private.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.