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Township Subcommittee Violates Open Meetings Act

In the case of State ex rel. Mohr v. Colerain Twp., 2022-Ohio-1109, the appellate court held that a subcommittee of the township trustees violated the Open Meetings Act under R.C. 121.22 where the subcommittee privately deliberated in person and via email over a six-month period with a majority of its members, making recommendations and decisions about the township’s land-use policy.

Here, the state filed a complaint contending that the subcommittee had violated the Open Meetings Act because it did not hold public meetings and did not take minutes of the meetings that could be made available to the public. The subcommittee argued that (1) it is not a public body, nor a decision-making body as defined under the Open Meetings Act; and (2) it did not hold meetings with a majority of its members present and those present members did not deliberate over public business. To violate the Open Meetings Act, it must be established that a public body held a meeting with the majority of its members and that the meeting improperly excluded the public. The appellate court disagreed with the subcommittee.

In support of its decision, the appellate court first explained that R.C. 121.22(B)(1) defines a “public body” as “‘any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision-making body of any … township …,’ as well as ‘a committee or subcommittee’ of any of those bodies.” State ex rel. Mohr, ¶ 20, citing R.C. 121.22(B)(1). The appellate court then explained that other appellate courts have found that “a committee need not be a decision-making body to be a public body.” Id. at ¶ 21. The appellate court then found that the subcommittee met the definition of a “public body” because it was a subordinate group to which the township trustees referred business and it made decisions and recommendations about the township’s land-use policy. Next, the appellate court found that the subcommittee did hold meetings and did deliberate during those meetings because there were prearranged discussions, analyses, and recommendations regarding the township’s land-use policy.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.



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