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State ex rel. Bratenahl v. The Village of Bratenahl

Supreme Court of Ohio

August 14, 2019

The State ex rel. More Bratenahl; Meade, Appellant,
v.
The Village of Bratenahl et al., Appellees.

          Submitted March 26, 2019

          Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County, No. 105281, 2018-Ohio-497.

          Finney Law Firm, L.L.C., Brian C. Shrive, Christopher P. Finney, and Justin C. Walker; and the Law Firm of Curt C. Hartman and Curt C. Hartman, for appellant.

          Matty, Henrikson & Greve, L.L.C., David J. Matty, Shana A. Samson, and Mark B. Marong, for appellees.

          Frost Brown Todd, L.L.C., Ryan W. Goellner, and Monica L. Dias, urging reversal for amici curiae Ohio Coalition for Open Government, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Ohio Association of Broadcasters.

          DeWine, J.

         {¶ 1} Ohio's Open Meetings Act commands, "All meetings of any public body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times." R.C. 121.22(C). The question before us is whether a village council complies with this directive when it elects a council officer by way of a secret ballot. We say no.

         I. A secret ballot to elect a president pro tempore of council

         {¶ 2} In January 2015, the Bratenahl Village Council gathered for its first meeting of the year. Among the council's business that day was the election of a president pro tempore-someone to serve as the acting mayor when the mayor is absent or unable to perform his or her duties. See R.C. 731.10. After two members were nominated for the position, the following exchange was had:

Mayor Licastro: Do you want to do a show of hands? Do you want to do a secret ballot?
Councilmember Beckenbach: Let's do secret ballot. We've always done that.
Mayor Licastro: Secret Ballot. Mr. Matty?
Councilmember Bacci: Is that legal?
Solicitor Matty: Yes, it is legal. ...

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