Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Portage
STATE OF OHIO ex rel. BRIAN M. AMES, Relator-Appellant,
PORTAGE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Respondents-Appellees.
Appeal from the Portage County Court of Common Pleas. Case
No. 2015 CV 00958.
M. Ames, pro se, (Relator-Appellant).
V. Vigluicci, Portage County Prosecutor, and Denise L Smith,
Chief Assistant Prosecutor, (For Respondents-Appellees).
TIMOTHY P. CANNON, J.
Relator-appellant, State of Ohio ex rel. Brian M. Ames
("Mr. Ames"), appeals from a decision rendered by
the Portage County Court of Common Pleas granting summary
judgment in favor of respondents-appellees, the Portage
County Board of Commissioners and its three commissioners:
Maureen T. Frederick, Kathleen Chandler, and Vickie A. Kline
(collectively, "the Board"). For the reasons that
follow, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.
and Procedural History
This case originated in November 2015. On February 2, 2016,
upon order of the trial court, Mr. Ames filed a pro se
"Amended Verified Complaint in Mandamus, Injunction and
Declaratory Judgment" against the Board, alleging six
counts in violation of R.C. 121.22, Ohio's Open Meetings
Act. The essence of Mr. Ames' complaint is that the Board
held four separate meetings on November 4, 2015; the Board
called one of those meetings as an "emergency
meeting" when there was no emergency; the Board did not
give proper notice of one of those meetings; the Board
discussed matters not disclosed in the notices that were
given; and the Board failed to keep full and accurate minutes
of each meeting. Mr. Ames attached copies of four public
notices that had been published in the Ravenna Record
Courier. The authenticity and content of these notices are
not disputed. They are summarized as follows:
■ On October 23, 2015, the Board published notice of
cancelling its regularly scheduled meetings for November and
■ Also on October 23, 2015, the Board published notice
of a Special Meeting on November 4, 2015, at 11:00 a.m. The
noticed purpose of the Special Meeting was "to meet in
an Executive Session to discuss details relative to the
security arrangements and emergency response protocols for a
public body or a public office.
■ On October 25, 2015, the Board published notice of
Special Meetings "to review the Fiscal Year 2016 budgets
with Elected Officials and Department Heads" on three
separate days: November 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
November 3, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and November 4, from
10:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
■ On November 4, 2015, the Board published notice of a
Special Emergency Meeting on November 4, 2015, beginning at
9:30 a.m. The stated purpose of this Special Emergency
Meeting was "to meet with the Portage Park District to
discuss the Hiram Hike and Bike Trail and to conduct Budget
meetings as previously advertised."
The Board filed an answer, denying it had violated any
provisions of R.C. 121.22.
Mr. Ames filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting no
genuine issue as to any material fact alleged in his
complaint remained to be litigated. He stated only one set of
minutes exist for November 4, 2015, but four separate
meetings were held that day. He attached a copy of the
minutes to his motion. The "material facts" he says
cannot be disputed are as follows:
The first meeting was the Special Emergency Meeting at 9:30
a.m., for which notice was published in the Record Courier
that same day. Because there was no actual emergency, it
should not have been called as an emergency meeting; notice
was therefore required to be given more than 24 hours in
advance. The Board also held an improper executive session
because it was not related to the purpose of the Special
The second meeting was the Special Meeting from 10:00 to
10:30 a.m., for which notice was published on October 25,
2015. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the 2016
The third meeting was the Special Meeting at 11:00 a.m., for
which notice was published on October 23, 2015. The purpose
of this meeting was to discuss security and emergency
The fourth meeting commenced at 1:16 p.m. Mr. Ames stated the
minutes do not reflect a proper closing of any of the three
earlier meetings; the recess occurred at the end of the third
meeting, the purpose of which was to discuss security; the
fourth meeting exceeded the scope and purpose of the third
meeting; thus, a reasonable person would have concluded that
the fourth meeting was a new meeting, not a continuation.
Notice was not published for this fourth meeting.
The Board responded in opposition and filed its own motion
for summary judgment. The Board asserted no genuine issue
existed as to the following material facts: only one meeting
was held on November 4, 2015; three separate notices were
issued regarding the time, place, and purposes for that one
meeting; and the minutes of that one meeting accurately
reflect that those purposes were discussed. The Board further
asserted there was no issue of law regarding the propriety of
its emergency meeting.
Attached to the Board's motion was an affidavit of Amy
Hutchinson, the Board's Clerk, who averred the following,
in relevant part:
7. In November 2015, two (2) of the three (3) members of the
Board of Portage County Commissioners were unavailable for
8. One (1) commissioner was unavailable or available on a
limited basis for medical reasons from November 9, 2015
through November 23, 2015.
9. One (1) commissioner was out of the Country from November
10. 2015 through December 1, 2015.
10. * * *
11. The next scheduled Board meeting after October 30, 2015,
was Tuesday, November 3, 2015.
12. At the request of the Board of Commissioners, on November
3, 2015, I sent an email transmission to the Ravenna Record
Courier and other news media outlets with notification of a
meeting of the Board set for November 4, 2015 for the purpose
of a discussion with the Portage Park District regarding the
Hiram Hike and Bike Trail and budget discussions.
13. A true and accurate copy of the minutes of the Portage
County Board of Commissioners' November 4, 2015 meeting
is attached hereto as Exhibit D.
The minutes from November 4, 2015, indicate the ...