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Schreyer v. Board of Commissioners of Preble County

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

July 15, 2013

MANFRED R. SCHREYER d.b.a Taffy's of Eaton, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Jane E. Schreyer, for plaintiff-appellant

Martin P. Votel, Preble County Prosecuting Attorney, Kathryn M. West, for defendant-appellee


Per Curiam.

{¶ 1} This cause came on to be considered upon a notice of appeal, the transcript of the docket and journal entries, and original papers from the Preble County Court of Common Pleas, and upon the briefs and oral arguments of counsel. Now, therefore, the assignment of error having been fully considered is passed upon in conformity with App.R. 12(A) as follows:

{¶ 2} Plaintiff-appellant, Manfred R. Schreyer d.b.a. Taffy's of Eaton, appeals from a decision of the Preble County Court of Common Pleas dismissing his complaint for declaratory judgment against defendant-appellee, Preble County Board of Commissioners ("commissioners").

{¶ 3} On June 11, 2012, a public forum was scheduled to be held at Taffy's. The forum was organized by Taffy's and the Preble County Chamber of Commerce ("chamber") to discuss a potential county development project, Goose Creek. As a part of the forum, several people were invited to serve on a panel to answer questions regarding Goose Creek, including the commissioners. All three commissioners agreed to join the panel.

{¶ 4} On June 10, 2012, one day prior to the scheduled event, two local newspapers ran an announcement stating that the forum is moved from Taffy's to the Preble County Commissioners' Chambers. The reasons cited in the announcement for the move included that it was best for the commissioners to be in session, the forum needed to be recorded, and some panelists were concerned the forum was taking place at a private business. One announcement quoted "public officials" and the other announcement specifically named one of the commissioners. A forum was held on the specified date at the commissioners' chambers.

{¶ 5} At a commissioners' meeting held on July 30, 2012, a letter from the chamber was read into the record highlighting the chamber's displeasure regarding the commissioners' action moving the forum. All three commissioners stated on the record that they had no recollection of moving the forum. However, at a subsequent commissioners' meeting, when pressed, one of the commissioners admitted on the record that they had called the newspapers regarding moving the forum.

{¶ 6} On September 27, 2012, Schreyer filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the commissioners requesting a declaration that: (1) the commissioners acted illegally by moving a chamber-sponsored event from a private business to another location, (2) that the commissioners acted dishonestly in contravention of the spirit, if not the word, of the Ohio Ethics Statute when they denied, and later admitted, to moving the forum, and (3) the commissioners retaliated or threatened to retaliate against Taffy's when one commissioner stated that whether he attended a forum in the future would depend on where the forum was held. Schreyer requested a written public apology be placed on the record at a commissioners' meeting. In response, the commissioners filed a motion to dismiss and motion for fees and sanctions. The trial court sustained the commissioners' motion to dismiss. The trial court held that there was no real and present controversy between Schreyer and the commissioners. Additionally, the trial court overruled the commissioners' motion for sanctions.

{¶ 7} Schreyer now appeals and raises one assignment of error for review:


{¶ 9} Schreyer argues that the trial court erred in finding that a real and present controversy did not exist between Schreyer and the commissioners because the commissioners had already acted by illegally moving a forum from a private business to the commissioners' chambers and the controversy was not dependent upon some hypothetical future event. We disagree.

{¶ 10} Although Schreyer urges us to employ a de novo standard of review, an appellate court reviews a trial court's dismissal of a declaratory judgment action regarding justiciability under an abuse of discretion standard. Mid-Am. Fire & Cas. Co. v. Heasley, 113 Ohio St.3d 133, 2007-Ohio-1248, paragraph two of the syllabus; Arnott v. Arnott, 132 Ohio St.3d 401, 2012-Ohio-3208, ΒΆ 13. An abuse of discretion connotes more than an error of law or judgment; it implies that the trial ...

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