Use of executive session does not create confidentiality

The Ohio Ethics Commission recently issued Advisory Opinion No. 2020-02 outlining prohibitions under the Ohio Ethics Law related to confidential information and executive sessions. The opinion answers whether ORC 102.03(B) prohibits a present or former public official from disclosing information discussed during executive session without appropriate authorization.

The commission found that the use of executive session does not by itself create confidentiality, but that the “application of the Ethics Laws is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual situation.” Matters discussed in executive session that are expressly required to be kept confidential by federal and state laws or regulation would be considered confidential. However, documents that are “public record” and not otherwise exempt under one of the exemptions to the Public Records Act “may still be subject to public disclosure even if the public body appropriately discussed it in executive session.”

Advisory Opinion 2020-02 notes “it would be unreasonable to hold that everything discussed in an executive session is statutorily confidential, absent other provisions of state or federal law expressly making the information confidential.”

Ethics