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Cincinnati Council just met privately for the first time since voters gave them permission in 2018

Becca Costello

A private meeting at Cincinnati City Hall Tuesday was the first time Council has met in executive session in years.

Voters approved a charter amendment four years ago that allowed council to sometimes meet behind closed doors, following Ohio law on specific topics allowed.

“The voters of the city of Cincinnati approved this, gave us the power to go into executive session in 2018 with 77% of the vote,” said Council Member Jeff Cramerding. “We've never used that power until today. I do believe that if used prudently, this is a wise exercise of the power, and an example of good governance.”

The agenda for Council’s Public Safety and Governance Committee meeting included an update from city administration on negotiations with CODE (Cincinnati Organized and Dedicated Employees), which represents about 1,000 city workers.

Cramerding made the motion to conduct that part of the meeting in executive session.

“By going into executive session, we can receive honest feedback and candid feedback from the administration and give them collective advice, and that's important so that we are all on the same page moving forward,” Cramerding said. “It also ensures the clear division between the count the council's policymaking role, and the administration's ability to go ahead and negotiate the contract.”

Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said this doesn’t mean Council isn’t committed to transparency and conducting business openly.

“This is not going to be an ongoing situation where we have executive session so that we're out of the public view,” Kearney said. “But in this one case, where negotiations cannot be discussed publicly and where City Council would like to have input and like to have information, we need to do it this way.”

The committee voted 4-0 to approve the executive session. Council Member Liz Keating participated in the meeting virtually and so could not vote on the motion.

The committee members moved to a conference room with members of the City Law Department for the executive session. They returned to council chambers about half an hour later to address the rest of the agenda.

Once city administrators negotiate a final contract, it will go before council for a vote.

State law strictly limits the topics of discussion for an executive session; other topics include discussing legal action or property acquisition.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.