Brian Ames sued the Portage County Board of Commissioners alleging it violated the Open Meetings Act on 42 separate occasions during the first six months of 2016 by simply reading all the permissible purposes set forth in R.C. 121.22(G)(1). And there was no arguing that fact. The minutes of the County Commissioners’ meeting showed each motion was made “[i]n accordance with the [sic] Ohio Revised Code 121.22(G)(1), it was moved by [Board member’s name], seconded by [Board member’s name] that the Board of Commissioners move into executive session to consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or reghttp://wiseadmin.net/wise2/fckeditor/editor/images/spacer.gifulated individual.”
While the trial court somehow determined the Board of Commissioners stated an acceptable purpose under R.C. 121.22(G)(1), the Court of Appeals did not agree. The Court of Appeals was quick to note the Act makes clear “if a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) * * *, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held[.]” According to the Court of Appeals, based on the plain language of the statute and considering Ohio case law interpreting this executive session exception, “the trial court erred in holding that the Board necessarily stated an acceptable purpose under R.C. 121.22(G)(1) by reading the entire list of permissible purposes verbatim.”
In the end, Mr. Amos could not meet his burden and offer any evidence demonstrating the Board did not reasonably intend to discuss all of the permissible purposes listed in the meeting minutes. Consequently, Mr. Amos’s complaint was doomed to fail. That said, this case offers all public officials a quick Open Meetings Act refresher – the motion matters. When going into executive session under R.C. 121.22(G)(1), the motion must be for more than “personnel matters”, but cannot be “to consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official.” Pick one, or two, reasons and go with it. To read this case, see State ex rel. Brian Ames v. Portage Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 2019-Ohio-3730.