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It's all in the (Scrabble) game

March 20, 2008 - Jennifer Houtman
We're used to Marietta City Council members who don't get along, so until recently it wasn't likely that you'd have a quorum of Marietta City Council outside the workings of city government.

But that's exactly what happened last night at the Family Learning Center's annual Scrabble tournament.

One of the teams consisted of four sitting council members - Andy Thompson, John Grimm, David White and Harley Noland. A quorum, which means more than half of city council was gathered together in one place, is something Ohio Sunshine law says could be considered a meeting of council. The law isn't crystal clear on this; sometimes such gatherings are innocent, even unintended. But if they came together for any reason, and even the tiniest bit of city business was discussed, that would be a violation of the state's open meetings law.

We'll never know what was discussed over the Scrabble board. Was it appropriate for these four to join in the fun for a good cause as their own Scrabble team? I think not, and here's why: Members of City Council have to maintain the appearance of objectivity and responsibility at all times. This gathering of City Council members looked innocent enough, but it is possible some aspect of city business came up throughout the course of the evening. There was at least the appearance of impropriety.

This isn't the first time these individual council members have "grouped" together. They need to be careful they don't cross the line in terms of 'when' or 'why' they gather.

Another Scrabble team of note included Councilman Tom Vukovic, council President Paul Bertram, Auditor David Locke and the loser in the race for city auditor, Randy Burnworth. So, all Marietta City Council members were present and accounted for except Randy Wilson and Kathy Shively.

In the spirit of Sunshine Week, this was not one of council's brighter moments.


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