CUYAHOGA FALLS: Before each Cuyahoga Falls City Council meeting, the 11 members show up early for a closed-door partisan caucus.
Republicans meet in one room. Democrats gather next door.
Since joining council in 2008, Vincent Rubino, a Democrat, has always wondered whether the gatherings where topics of the day including pending legislation are discussed, are legal.
What has troubled Rubino is that one party holds the majority — now the Republicans and in the past Democrats — thus the chats could be construed as a gathering of a council majority and a violation of Ohio’s open meetings law.
It bothered Rubino so much that he brought it up to his fellow Democrats once or twice since his appointment and three subsequent elections. Last summer, he quit going to caucus.
On Thursday, just days after Council President Mary Ellen Pyke, a Republican, presided over her first City Council meeting and 10 days after Republicans assumed leadership roles, Rubino sent an email to his colleagues on council, Mayor Don Walters, the law director, and the press proposing changes to the way council does business.
He hopes to discuss his “Suggested City Council Practices” during tonight’s Public Affairs Committee meeting.
Rubino is concerned that the Republicans not only hold a majority of council votes, but a majority of committee votes in their caucus as well — just as Democrats had for the past eight years. He’s asking that caucuses not include a majority of either council or committee members.
Pyke questions the timing of Rubino’s suggestions.
“I think Mr. Rubino has some very interesting concerns and suggestions,” she said. “However, I question his timing. The new council and president were sworn in on Jan. 6, 2014, and committees assigned that night. I can only conclude that Mr. Rubino’s concerns are over the practices of the previous council’s form of disseminating information.”
Pyke said the new council majority decided before they took their oath of office Jan. 6 that someone would sit out during the caucus so there would not be a majority in the room.
Rubino’s proposal to limit committee members would mean half of the Republicans could not attend their own party caucus.