A special meeting was called Wednesday for the Mount Sterling Village Council to discuss a report from the State Auditor’s Office. What was described as a special meeting open to the public turned into a closed — and locked — door session with the state auditor’s special investigators, Dennis Graul and Melissa Barnett.
“I was under the impression that today was subject to the ‘Sunshine Laws,’” said Mark Pitstick, the village solicitor. “This meeting was not called by the Village of Mount Sterling, but by the State Auditor’s Office.”
The Ohio “Sunshine Laws” are statutory laws from Ohio’s Public Records Act and Open Meetings Act which were created to allow, according to the Ohio State Bar Association, “public access to records and meetings and the conduct and activities of government.”
“We are then, with the mayor’s concurrence, going to dismiss the special meeting today because none of the contents of today’s meeting can be recorded,” Pitstick said after the meeting was called. The meeting at the village town hall was then adjourned and the auditor’s team, as well as the five council members, the mayor and Pitstick went into the back offices for a more than hour and 30-minute private meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, councilwoman Diane Spradlin said that the information will be eventually open to the public.
“It probably won’t be in a matter of days, but will likely take a couple of weeks for the information to be public,” she said.
The meeting was called to discuss the details of the auditor’s office investigation and findings into former village administrator Joe Johnson’s case. Councilwoman Rebecca Burns said the meeting would cover the explanation of how and what happened.
“This will be an extensive report on how (Johnson) was able to do what he did,” she said.
Earlier this year, Johnson pleaded guilty to theft in office, racketeering and falsification of records involving more than $700,000 which landed him a 10-year prison sentence and resulted in the resignation of former mayor, Charles Neff.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.
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