Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
STATE OF OHIO EX REL. MORE BRATENAHL, ET AL.RELATORS-APPELLANTS
VILLAGE OF BRATENAHL, OHIO, ET AL. RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Christopher P. Finney Finney Law Firm,
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE David J. Matty Mark B. Marong Shana
Samson Matty Henrikson & Greve, L.L.C.
BEFORE: Kilbane, J., Keough, A.J., and McCormack, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
EILEEN KILBANE, J.
Relator-appellant, state of Ohio ex rel. Patricia Meade
("Meade"), appeals from the trial court's
decision granting summary judgment in favor of
respondents-appellees, the village of Bratenahl
("Bratenahl"), Mayor John Licastro, and
Councilmembers Mary Beckenbach, James Puffenberger, Erin
Smith, Geoffrey Williams, and Marla Murphy (collectively
referred to as "Bratenahl Councilmembers"). For the
reasons set forth below, we affirm.
In January 2016, Meade, a Bratenahl resident, and State ex
rel. MORE Bratenahl, a community news publication
disseminated by Meade, filed a complaint against Bratenahl
and its councilmembers (collectively referred to as
"Bratenahl respondents") alleging that they
violated or threatened to violate various provisions of
Ohio's Open Meetings Act ("OMA") by casting
secret ballots when selecting the Bratenahl Council President
pro tempore in January 2015. The OMA, which is popularly known
as the Sunshine Law, mandates that all meetings of any public
body are to be public meetings open to the public at all
times. R.C. 121.22(C). Meade sought injunctive relief and an
award of civil forfeiture and attorney fees.
In April 2016, Meade filed an amended complaint, naming
Bratenahl Mayor John Licastro as a respondent and adding
three counts that expanded on the alleged violations of the
OMA. Count 2 alleged that Licastro, Murphy, Puffenberger, and
Williams threatened to violate the OMA by failing to keep and
maintain minutes of the Bratenahl Council Finance Committee
for the meetings held on January 19, 2016, February 16, 2016,
March 14, 2016, and April 18, 2016. In Counts 3 and 4, Meade
alleges that Bratenahl Council conducted public business in
illegal executive sessions in violation of the OMA on August
19, 2015 (Count 3) and November 19, 2014 (Count
Meade sought a declaratory judgment that the Bratenahl
Councilmembers violated or threatened to violate the OMA and
sought an injunction prohibiting the councilmembers from
conducting any votes by secret ballot, unless authorized by
Ohio law, and mandating all defendants to maintain and
prepare accurate council meeting minutes. Meade further
sought a civil forfeiture fee of $500 for each distinct
violation or threatened violation of the OMA, as well as
court costs and attorney fees.
In September 2016, Meade moved for summary judgment. In her
motion, Meade alleges the following three separate violations
or threatened violations of the OMA by the Bratenahl
(i) using secret ballots to conduct official business of
(ii) failing to keep and maintain minutes of the [Bratenahl
Council Finance Committee, ] which contain sufficient facts
and information so as to permit the public to understand and
appreciate the rationale behind the Committee's actions;
(iii) during the course of a public meeting [Bratenahl
Council] held on August 19, 2015, conducting public business
of the Council in an illegal executive session and/or
entering in such executive session in violation of the
requirements of the [OMA].
The Bratenahl respondents opposed Meade's motion for
summary judgment and filed their own cross-motion for summary
judgment. In their motion, the Bratenahl respondents argued
that Meade failed to meet her burden of persuasion by a
preponderance of the evidence that they violated or
threatened to violate the OMA.
In December 2016, the trial court denied Meade's motion
for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of
the Bratenahl respondents.
It is from this order that Meade appeals, raising the
following two assignments of error, which shall be discussed
of Error One
trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of
[the Bratenahl respondents].