July 27, 2019
Our firm was recently retained to represent Stacy and Jason Hinners in a suit against the city of Huron Ohio and its council members for violating Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.
In 2017 and 2018 the city council voted during an executive session to award a Bonus and salary increase to the city manager. Ohio’s Open Meetings Act is clear, while the council can deliberate on these issues in executive session, they can never take formal action or vote in executive session. But by authorizing a pay increase and bonus payments, that’s exactly what the Council did.
In this case in Erie County, Ohio, Hinners v City of Huron, Case No. 2019 CV 0275 the Hinners actually alerted the city to the violations and asked the city to undo the illegal payments. Instead the city informed the Hinners that the council would simply “ratify” the illegal payments.
The Hinners filed suit; and true to their word, the council voted the next day to ratify the illegal payments. But not before first arresting Mrs. Hinners on the pretext of “disrupting a public meeting” in violation of her civil rights.
Mrs. Hinners is represented by Subodh Chandra in the criminal case. You can read more about the criminal case at the Chandra Law Firm’s website.
A visiting judge has been appointed to hear the Open Meetings case, retired judge Michael Jackson formerly of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court. Judge Jackson has set a short schedule for the case. Trial is scheduled for February 2020.
Given that the city’s first response was to arrest our client, we expect that the city will mount an aggressive defense and we are prepared to mount an equally aggressive offense. We have already issued our first round of written discovery and anticipate deposing the council members in the next few months.