To our friends, clients and colleagues in local and regional government, higher education and the nonprofit sector, welcome to our latest Monday Message from the Public Law Group at McDonald Hopkins. In today’s email, assembled by attorney Kevin Butler, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.
In today’s edition:
- Join us for our next Public Law in Practice webinar: Properly using and accounting for ARPA relief dollars
- White House digests additional infrastructure grant and loan programs for local government
- Local appeals court backs board of commissioners on what it means to discuss ‘employment’ in executive session
Join us for our next Public Law in Practice webinar: Properly using and accounting for ARPA relief dollars
Earlier this month the U.S. Treasury Department issued its final rule governing the use of state, county and local government funding under the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Biden administration’s signature COVID-19 relief bill. The rule finalizes government’s use of $350 billion in ARPA money set aside under a portion of the aid package known as the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF).
On Thursday, February 24, at noon, we hope you’ll join us for the next installment of our popular Public Law in Practice free webinar series, in which we explore topics of interest to the readers of the Monday Message. In this next edition, our fifth in the series, veteran municipal law and public finance attorneys Amanda Gordon and Kevin Butler will be joined by Marnie Fredrickson, Assistant Chief Deputy Auditor in Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office, to discuss appropriate uses of and accounting for SLFRF and other federal COVID-19 relief dollars that are flowing to local and regional governments.
How do the feds want us to document our expenditures? What will the audit process look like? When must we go to bid for projects covered by SLFRF? How have the regulations changed under Treasury’s final rule? Find answers to these questions and more in the hour-long webinar.
Application for 1.0 hour of Ohio CLE credit is pending, and lawyers and nonlawyers alike are encouraged to register. We’ll send registration details shortly, but for now mark your calendars and check our Events page for more soon. The webinar will be free to attendees.
White House digests additional infrastructure grant and loan programs for local government
Last week the Biden administration released a fact sheet compiling in one place descriptions of 25 separate infrastructure funding opportunities available to local governments that are distinct from any COVID-19 aid sources. You can find the fact sheet here. Included are competitive funding opportunities that touch on road construction and safety, stormwater storage to eliminate flooding and combined sewer overflows, environmental and energy resiliency and efficiency, and rural broadband expansion, among a number of other infrastructure improvements.
Some of the programs have looming application deadlines, so we suggest browsing the offerings now and following up by visiting the relevant federal agencies’ landing pages as soon as you’re able. Call on any of us on the Pubic Law team at McDonald Hopkins for assistance with these applications and other public finance needs.
Local appeals court backs board of commissioners on what it means to discuss ‘employment’ in executive session
Questions often arise among public bodies subject to Ohio’s Open Meetings Act as to whether executive session is available to them under certain employment-related circumstances. Earlier this month the Ninth District Court of Appeals determined that the Open Meetings Act, codified at R.C. 121.22, authorized the Portage County Commissioners to adjourn into executive session “to consider the employment of a public employee” – one of the enumerated reasons for executive session – when the commissioners discussed a county official’s leadership skills, how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the official’s job duties, and the potential for her elevation into an interim director role.
A citizen challenged the commissioners’ use of executive session under the theory that the statute authorizing public bodies to go behind closed doors for specific “employment” reasons does not permit them to discuss an employee’s job performance, the pandemic and the succession plan – but only permits them to discuss the hiring of a new employee. The court rejected that argument, holding that under its plain meaning the word “employment” as used in the Open Meetings Act encompasses a broader array of topics. “It is evident that in their common usage,” the court wrote, “the terms appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, and compensation are not mutually exclusive but, to a certain extent, are capable of describing similar conduct.”
The case is State ex rel. Ames v. Portage Cty. Bd. of Commrs., issued January 18. Read the court’s opinion here and call on us if we can be of help on open meetings questions.
Feel free to contact any member of the McDonald Hopkins Public Law team if you have questions or need assistance on any of the matters we’ve covered above or with your legal needs in general.