We found the recent ruling by the Ohio’s Eleventh Appellate District to be VERY, VERY interesting.
Case No. 2018-L-116 deals with Mr. Douglas Bode and Concord Township. Mr. Bode was a part-time lieutenant with the Concord Township Fire Department who was suspended and demoted following a series of incidents alleging unacceptable conduct.
Mr. Bode did not agree with the original ruling by the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, and filed with the 11th District Court of Appeals.
The Appellate Court found that Concord Township committed a technical violation of Ohio’s Open Meeting Act, so the injunction ordering the Board to comply with OMA is appropriate, but they did not invalidate Mr. Bode’s suspension and demotion approved by the Board.
In summary the Court ruled:
(1) The OMA applies to any “meeting”, which means (a) any prearranged discussion (b) of the public business of the public body (c) by a majority of its members.
(2) “Discussion of the public business” means the exchange of words, comments or ideas by a public body.
(3) “Public business” means matters within the preview of a public body’s duties, functions and jurisdiction.
(4) The following activities do not constitute a “meeting”: (a) information gathering, fact-finding, or the gathering of facts and information for ministerial purposes, unless there is also a discussion of public business between the members of the public body during the activity; or (b) a majority of a public body being in the same room and answering questions or making statements to other persons who are not public officials, even if those statements relate to the public business.
(5) The OMA applies to any “executive session”, which means (a) a portion of a “meeting” (b) held after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an executive session, (c) held for the sole purpose of the consideration of any of the matters set forth in R.C. 121.22(G) (1) through (8), and (d) at which the public may be excluded.
(6) The OMA applies to a “meeting” or an “executive session” regardless of whether the public body deliberates.
(7) A resolution, rule or formal action adopted in an open meeting that results from deliberations in a meeting not open to the public is invalid unless the deliberations were (a) for the purpose specifically authorized in division (G) or (J) of R.C. 122.21 and (b) conducted at an executive session held in compliance with R.C. 121.22.
(8) A public body “deliberates” by thoroughly discussing all of the factors involved in a decision, carefully, weighing the positive factors against the negative factors, cautiously considering the ramifications of its proposed action, and gradually arriving at a proper decision which reflects the legislative process.
The sound that you may have just heard was certain Lake County lawyers slapping their hands against their foreheads in frustration over this ruling. This makes things a little more difficult for them, and certain public officials that have disdain for the public wanting to know what is happening in their community.