April 9, 2018
Finney Law Firm attorneys Brian Shrive and Chris Finney, filed suit on Monday, seeking to enjoin a cabal of five rogue Cincinnati Council members: Chris Seelbach, Tamaya Dennard, Wendell Young, Greg Landsman, and Alexander Paul George “PG” Sittenfeld from conducting secret, illegal meetings in violation of the Cincinnati City Charter and Ohio’s Sunshine Law.
The suit springs from two press releases issued by the cabal in mid-March that indicated that they had been conducting illegal meetings.
Ohio’s sunshine law requires public business be conducted in public subject to certain exceptions. The Cincinnati City Charter goes even further, permitting no exceptions to the rule that all proceedings of council be open.
March 16 Press Release
The cabal issued a press release on March 16, announcing the position of the five members of council relative to the question of whether and how to investigate allegations against the Cincinnati City Manager (undoubtedly public business).
March 18 Press Release
Two days later the cabal issued a second press release doubling down on their position.
Public Records Reveal Violation
Upon learning of the press releases, Mark Miller submitted a public records request to the Clerk of Council for copies of records related to the press releases and the communications between the rogue members.
While the Clerk of Council has yet to produce all of the requested records, the records produced to date make clear that the press release was drafted and agreed upon via a series of emails, text messages, and phone calls between council members PG Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Wendell Young, Tamaya Dennard, and Greg Landsman.
In one email Seelbach states that the rogue members have agreed on the press release via a chain of text messages:
In another, Sittenfeld describes the first draft of the press release as the result of discussions, and that they have scheduled a call to discuss the press release further. Suggesting multiple illegal meetings.
Quite simply, this is not how government is supposed to work. Elected officials should not be discussing public business and crafting backroom deals via email and text message. We fully expect that we will uncover many more violations as the case proceeds to the discovery phase.
The facts of this case mirror a 2016 case in which the Ohio Supreme Court declared that telephone calls, emails, text messages, and other electronic communications between a majority of a public body constitute a meeting subject to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.
Read the complaint below or here.