Ohio judge says township skirted open meetings law

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LEBANON, Ohio (AP) -- A judge has ruled that officials in a southwest Ohio township violated state open meetings law with informal gatherings before public meetings.

Warren County Common Pleas Judge James Flannery ruled that Clearcreek Township officials violated the law several times by discussing such items as a lawn care contract and a zoning policy in the office of the township administrator. Flannery says such sessions invite speculation that decisions are being made in a back room, evading the "Sunshine Law."

Flannery ordered Clearcreek Township and its trustees not to violate the Opening Meetings Act in the future.

The case has been watched around Ohio because of questions raised about similar "pre-meeting" discussions by other public bodies.

A township administrator says the judge made it clear there no intent to violate the law.

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