LFC Comments: Thanks to the Patriots at Auburntownship.org for this article. The “Amazing Mr. Ames” once again wins his challenge against the Portage County Commissioners.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
THE OHIO SUPREME COURT RULES: 2021-Ohio-2374, Judgment July 14, 2021
State ex rel Ames v. Portage County Board of Commissioners, et al (PDF)
JUSTICES: C.J. O’Conner, Kennedy, Fischer, DeWine, Donnelly, Stewart, Brunner
Portage County legal scholar Brian M. Ames received a ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 14, 2021, in response to his filing in March 2021. The original complaint WAS filed in Eleventh District Court of Appeals as 2019-P-0125 as a result of September 17 and September 26, 2019, convened at 9 am and adjourned by 9:02 am by the Portage County Board of County Commissioners under their authority to conduct business for the Portage County Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) under the auspices of the Open Meeting Act (RC 121.22) and the Public Records Act (RC 149.43).
Because the SWMD is required to keep accurate records of its public meetings (held just prior to County Commissioner meetings on Thursdays at 9 am) in its meeting minutes, those records are subject to both the Open Meetings Act and the Public Records Act.
Per RC 3734.52, Chapter 343, a county board of commissioners is charged with the duty “to establish. . . a solid waste management district” or a “joint solid waste management district with one or more other county boards of commissioners.” Portage County Commissioners established the Portage County SWMD on December 20, 1988, thereby serving as its board or directors.
On December 26, 2019, Mr. Ames submitted a public record request for the “meeting minutes of September 17 and September 26, 2019, for the Portage County Board of Commissioners and the Portage County Solid Waste Management District.” . In both cases the Portage County Board of Commissioners had called the meetings to order at 9 am and had adjourned the meetings at either 9:01 or 9:02 am after using a consent agenda to approve the minutes of a previous SWMD meeting and to approve three resolutions in only one motion, a single “Yes vote, immediately followed by the Commissioners’ usual county business.
In his initial legal filing, the September 17 SWMD minutes had claimed to include a “Then and Now Certificate” known as Exhibit A to Resolution 19-137, but it was not included in the records that were emailed to Mr. Ames on December 27, 2019.
On December 27, 2019, Mr. Ames filed a writ of mandamus against the Portage County Board of County Commissioners, the Portage County Solid Waste Management District, and the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, claiming that the SWMD had violated the Open Records Act by conducting business during September 17 and September 26 intermissions and by using a consent agenda. His writ of mandamus compelled the board of directors of SWMD “to prepare, file, and maintain accurate minutes for all public SWMD meetings,” except for properly initiated executive sessions; further, the writ asked for the financial relief established for resolution of violations of the Open Meetings Act.
Both Plaintiff/Appellant Ames and Defendants/Appellees Portage County asked the Eleventh District for award of summary judgment. When Eleventh District awarded summary judgment to Defendants/Appellees, Ames promptly filed his appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court on March 20, 2021.
On July 14, 2021, the SCO ruled that
1. Ames’ argument that SWMD is a fictitious, non-legal entity is not supported; therefore, the Board of County Commissioners; convening of SWMD is without fault.
2. The failure of the Eleventh District to accept Ames’ argument claiming illegality of Commissioners’ failure to notify public of SWMD resolutions being approved was a legal error.
3. The omission of Exhibit A from the September 17 resulted in an inaccurate report; SCO charged the Eleventh District Court with its second error for not identifying that inaccuracy.
4. Therefore, the Eleventh District erred for a third time by granting summary judgment to the Portage County Defendants/Appellees.
The SCO has ruled that Ames is not automatically entitled to financial mandamus relief from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas because “a court of common pleas . . . can neither sue nor be sued in its own right (sui juris) and Ames “cannot use mandamus as a way to bypass RC 121.22’s requirement that a violation be proven in . . .Common Pleas Court.”
SCO affirms the Eleventh District’s “summary judgment and denial of mandamus relief” in relation to the Court of Common Pleas. Nevertheless, SCO rules in Ames’ favor in regard to his request for Exhibit A and its order of remand back to the Eleventh District to determine if he should be awarded additional damages per the Public Records Act.