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Jones v. Geauga County Republican Party Central Committee

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Geauga

May 22, 2017

DIANE JONES, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
GEAUGA COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

         Civil Appeal from the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 15 M 000679.

          Mark S. O'Brien, (For Plaintiffs-Appellants).

          Nancy C. Schuster, Schuster & Simmons Co., L.P.A., (For Defendants-Appellees).

          OPINION

          THOMAS R. WRIGHT, J.

         {¶1} Appellants, Diane Jones, Thomas Jones, and Jimmy Lee Holden, appeal the trial court's decision granting appellees' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. We affirm.

         {¶2} Appellants filed suit against appellees, the Geauga County Republican Party Central Committee and Nancy McArthur (collectively "the committee"), seeking declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction, and other unspecified relief.

         {¶3} Appellants' first count seeks declaratory judgment that the committee on August 15, 2015 held a closed meeting at which it "deliberated, and voted upon two issues: (a) the amendment of the Central Committee's bylaws, and (b) the appointment of six (6) new members to the Central Committee to fill vacancies." Appellants aver that McArthur, as chairperson of the committee caused members of the public including appellants to be removed from the meeting. However, the soon-to-be appointed, newest members of the committee were permitted to stay and attend the meeting. Appellants claim that the committee violated R.C. 121.22 requiring public officials to hold meetings open to the public.

         {¶4} They also aver that the committee did not hold a roll call vote to adjourn to executive session and it did not indicate the matters on which it would vote in executive session contrary to R.C. 121.22(G), and that as such, the committee's actions contrary to R.C. 121.22 are invalid.

         {¶5} Accordingly, appellants sought the trial court to declare pursuant to R.C. 2721.01 that the committee's actions taken at its August 15, 2015 meeting are invalid.

         {¶6} In its second count, appellants seek to enjoin the committee from future violations of R.C. 121.22 via R.C. 121.22(I) based on the committee's alleged violations identified in count one.

         {¶7} In lieu of an answer, the committee filed a motion to dismiss based on appellants' failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The trial court granted the committee's motion to dismiss concluding that appellants have no right to a declaratory judgment and dismissed their complaint with prejudice.

         {¶8} Appellants assert one assigned error on appeal:

         {¶9} "The trial court committed prejudicial error in granting Appellees' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), based upon its opinion that the August 15, 2015 meeting of the Geauga County Republican Party Central Committee was not subject to O.R.C. 121.22 because a meeting of a county central committee of a political party held for the purpose of appointing new members to the committee to fill vacancies and to deliberate over amendments to its bylaws does not constitute public business, as contemplated by that code section, but the private, internal affairs of the committee."

         {¶10} R.C. 2721.02(A), authorizing declaratory judgment ...


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