Wright State University trustees have scheduled a closed-door meeting for Thursday, one day before they are expected to vote on budget cuts and decide whether to release an internal audit they have fought to keep secret.
The announcement for Thursday’s meeting, released in accordance with Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, lists only an executive session on the agenda. This means they will convene into a meeting closed to the public or media.
Public bodies cannot vote or take official action in executive session.
Wright State holds executive sessions somewhat routinely for various reasons. There were at least four in January and one a month since.
Executive sessions are allowed in limited cases. And Ohio law requires public entities state their reason for going into one. In this case, WSU’s announcement says it is for “Matters required to be kept confidential by federal law or regulations or state statutes”.
This is as much detail as the law requires WSU to give.
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s sunshine manual, “The common law attorney-client privilege does not qualify under this enumerated exemption to allow general legal advice in executive session because the public body is not required to assert the privilege.”
Wright State has repeatedly denied releasing a copy of a forensic audit the university paid the firm Plante Moran $300,000 to conduct. Their reason has been that the work was subcontracted through their contracted legal firm Dinsmore and Shohl, so it is protected under attorney-client privilege.
Two trustees are now calling for the release of the audit.
The trustees are also calling for the dismissal of two former WSU administrators who have been on paid leave for nearly two years amid an ongoing federal probe of possible violations of immigration law. But there is a separate provision under Ohio public meetings laws to discuss personnel matters.
So what sort of things could trustees dicsuss that’s exempt from disclosure? Dinsmore includes an example on its website: “For example, in the even that a public body needs to discuss matters that are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it may—and in fact must—do so in private.”
After Thursday’s closed-door meeting, the university will meet Friday for a day-long series of meetings in the Student Union. The finance committee will meet first, at 8 a.m., and discuss issues including budget cuts.