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WEATHERSFIELD TOWNSHIP Solicitor: Trustees didn't violate Ohio's open meetings law



Published: Mon, February 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The township solicitor said he believes there is no violation.

MINERAL RIDGE -- Weathersfield Township Trustee John Vogel has questioned whether his fellow trustees have violated Ohio's open meetings law in discussions about a new contract with a copier supplier.

But Trustee Chairman Fred Bobovnyk said he and Trustee Vice Chairman James Stoddard had no prearranged meeting -- one of the requirements for a violation of the law.

And Township Solicitor William Roux agreed. "I'm not aware of any Sunshine Law violation," he said. "They didn't do anything illegal as far as I'm concerned."

Bob Beasley, press spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's office, said the attorney general's office usually defers to the local law director or prosecutor in such cases.

Basically, the law requires public bodies to discuss public business in prearranged, publicly advertised meetings.

Vogel wondered whether Bobovnyk and Stoddard broke the law after he received a memo Feb. 1 in which Bobovnyk said he had talked to Stoddard about a proposal for a new contract with ComDoc of Girard and felt the trustees should move ahead and approve the pact.

Although Bobovnyk also authorized township Administrator David Pugh to sign and execute the ComDoc proposal effective Feb. 1, Bobovnyk said a final agreement with the company hasn't been reached.

Still negotiating

He added that Pugh is still negotiating with ComDoc, and now has the company agreeing to a $254-a-month contract that would include three new machines, which are faster and handle a greater volume of copies. A maintenance agreement is included in the five-year pact.

The previous contract called for supplying and repairing machines for $298 a month.

There have been problems with the current copiers not working in the township administration office and the Mineral Ridge Fire Department.

Bobovnyk said he and township officials have been working on a solution to the copier contract they have with ComDoc, which was not scheduled to expire until the end of this year.

Bobovnyk said trustees run into one another as they are going about their business at township hall and discuss what they are working on or about personal matters. Vogel also does this, he said.

"We do that all the time. There is no prearranged meeting, and that's the truth," Bobovnyk said.

Both Stoddard and Bobovnyk believed the township should go ahead with a new arrangement with ComDoc that would cost the township less and provide new copiers.

The current copiers have been on-site for four out of five years, and Bobovnyk said ComDoc approached the township and suggested replacing them with newer models.

Savings

Stoddard said the new contract also will save the township money, and added that a formal legal document will be presented to trustees for approval before anything is signed. A trustees meeting scheduled for Feb. 8 was canceled due to a death in Bobovnyk's family.

Roux said despite the fact the new contract with ComDoc will be more than $15,000, the township was not actually required to take formal bids on it because state law provides for numerous exclusions of required bids. In this case, he said, ComDoc is part of a state cooperative purchasing group.

The exclusion also existed because service projects do not require formal bids, he said.

He said no formal contract has been entered into, and trustees will talk about it at their meeting, now scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.




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