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MAHONING COUNTY Court date set for YSU open records case



Published: Tue, June 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The magistrate denied the temporary restraining order.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A hearing for a preliminary injunction is set for June 29 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to determine whether contract proposals for Youngstown State University's classified and faculty members should continue to be released to the public.

Magistrate Eugene Fehr denied a request for a temporary restraining order by Atty. Timothy Piatt, representing both unions at a hearing Monday.

Piatt argued that Ohio's law concerning collective bargaining agreements protects the release of private negotiation information to the public. He said, therefore, the proposals exchanged by parties during collective bargaining negotiations also are private and exempt from disclosure as a public record.

YSU released the initial proposals from the university and its Association of Classified Employees union Friday to The Vindicator.

Piatt argued in a lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of the classified employees that YSU had given the information to the newspaper without any prior notice to or agreement by the union. That case was assigned to Judge James C. Evans.

Faculty contracts

Another suit, filed Friday, is an attempt to keep information from the public on the faculty contract. That suit has been assigned to Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.

Atty. Edwin Romeo and Atty. Holly A. Jacobs represented YSU at the TRO hearing.

Romero argued that the initial contract proposal is a step in the negotiation process involving the ACE contract. He argued the proposals are permitted to be released under the state's open records law.

Fehr said that based upon his reading of case law concerning what is and is not open to the public, he was not convinced that a temporary restraining order needed to be issued.

He told Piatt that for a TRO to be issued, the complaining party must show there is justification, such as irreparable harm and damage to the ACE, to keep the records private, and "you can't show this."

The June 29 hearing will deal with the unions asking for the preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent YSU from continuing to release any negotiation information, including minutes and proposals exchanged, other than a tentative agreement or new agreement, for both unions.

The newspaper also wants documents dealing with the faculty union negotiations but was denied Friday because the two sides have a "blackout" agreement meaning neither side will discuss specifics with the public or the press.

Before Monday's hearing, the newspaper submitted a formal request to Jacobs seeking documents dealing with faculty union negotiations. The request states that state law doesn't recognize "blackout" agreements, and the documents must be released.

Talks continue

Negotiators for YSU and the faculty union have met 11 times, and officials with both sides say negotiations are progressing.

YSU and ACE officials exchanged the initial proposals May 25, and began negotiating June 7.

ACE wants 5 percent annual raises over the next three years, enrollment incentives and improvements to its health-care coverage in its initial proposal.

YSU negotiators are offering 1.5 percent annual raises, the eliminating of enrollment incentives and some changes in medical coverage in its initial proposal. Contracts with the two unions expire in August.




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