WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Commissioners announced Wednesday they have reached a settlement with two local residents who filed a lawsuit claiming the commissioners did not comply with Ohio’s Open Meeting Act.
Tony Thomas and William Petrey filed the complaint in the Clinton County Common Pleas Court in August 2023. On Wednesday, the Board of Commissioners settled the complaint for the total sum of $1,500 to be shared between the plaintiffs, in addition to paying their attorney fees, according to a news release from the commissioners.
The commissioners said in the release that they felt it was in the best interest of the taxpayers to not incur ongoing legal fees in defending the case. The board also agreed to some procedural changes.
In the original case filing from August, the plantiffs claimed the commissioners failed “to operate in manner that complies with Ohio’s Open Meeting Act.” The lawsuit claims the commissioners didn’t keep proper records of their discussions, saying “these discussions all occurred either in unlawful executive sessions or special meetings neither properly noticed nor properly recorded in adequate meeting minutes.”
According to the news release, an important outreach initiated by the commissioners over the past few years has been to meet with every township and village each year at their local meeting place to be available for discussion, answer questions from the public and to be aware first-hand of any concerns.
“While each meeting was publicly noticed and recorded, the plaintiffs alleged that the general description of the meeting was not sufficiently detailed,” the release states. “Future public notices will include a section on the agenda described as ‘public comment’ and any known topics to update from county business will be listed. Recording of public meetings will continue.”
The board agreed when moving into executive session under ORC 121.22(G)(8) to implement a two-part roll call with the first action containing a statement on record, which of the approved matters listed under 121.22(G)(8) are to be considered, and then a second majority vote confirming the move into executive session.
The Board of Commissioners stated in the release, “As public servants, the Board continues to be fully committed to transparency. And while we felt that we were already fully compliant, we are receptive to reviewing our processes and making these adjustments.”