Perry Township in Montgomery County, Ohio, has been in the news recently regarding a mass resignation of police officers and the controversial hiring of a new police chief.

One concerned citizen contacted our office after she felt township officials were attempting to intimidate her when she sought information and spoke out against the hiring.

Bonnie Bertelson

In March, we submitted requests to the trustees and the fiscal officer for copies of their communications regarding the mass resignation of police officers and the hiring of chief Tim Littleton. In the weeks since we submitted the request, the township has failed to even acknowledge the requests. Our suit seeks an order compelling production of the records.

We expect that the records will show that a substantial amount of the deliberations about the hiring of the police chief occurred via email and text message and otherwise outside of meetings open to the public.

The mass resignation and hiring has been the subject of news reports in the Dayton Daily News and by Fox45.  A sampling of that coverage is available here,  here, and here.

The case, styled State ex rel. Bonnie Bertelson v. Perry Township, has been filed in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Read the Complaint below or here.

We are particularly concerned about the efforts of certain trustees to intimidate our client and silence criticism of their actions. As Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman recently noted, too often elected officials think they are “self-employed” and forget that, in fact, they work for the people. We intend to make sure the Perry Township Trustees take this lesson to heart.

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A Finney Law Firm attorney  filed suit on Thursday against the Columbus Ohio Historic Resources Commission, seeking to enjoin violations of Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.

The Commission routinely fails to create minutes of its meetings and has failed to locate audio recordings of its meetings.

Our client is a Columbus resident whose efforts to navigate through the Commission’s Byzantine permitting regime have been hamstrung by the inability to review minutes of past Commission meetings.

Read the complaint below:

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Pursuant to the Agreed Entry and Order by Judge Ruehlman, Cincinnati Councilmembers Tamaya Dennard, Greg Landsman, Chris Seelbach, PG Sittenfeld, and Wendell Young – the self-proclaimed “Gang of Five” turned over emails between them.

What stands out is the substantial amount of public business being discussed and conducted in secret emails using private accounts rather than their city provided email accounts. We can only be so certain that we have in fact received all of the emails. As we know that Wendell Young deleted his text messages, we may never truly know whether the Gang of Five has turned over everything or not.

Read below or Use this dropbox link

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On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, Curt Hartman, of counsel attorney with Finney Law Firm, will represent Pat Meade before the Ohio Supreme Court. This suit seeks enforcement of Ohio’s Open Meetings Law (R.C. 121.22) to prohibit local governments from voting by secret ballot.

Meade brought suit in 2016 against the members of the Village of Bratenahl’s Village Council for violating Ohio’s Open Meetings Act by voting via secret ballot during an otherwise public meeting.

The Ohio Coalition for Open Government; the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and the Ohio Association of Broadcasters filed a friend of the court (amicus) brief in support of Ms. Meade as well.

In 2011, a Hamilton County Common Pleas Court found that secret ballot voting violates the Open Meetings Act. That same year, the Ohio Attorney General issued an opinion letter coming to the same conclusion. In this case, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and Court of Appeals ruled that secret ballot voting is permissible. The question has never previously been before the Ohio Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court will provide the final answer on this issue.

The Ohio Supreme Court live streaming feed is available here. The Court’s docket begins at 9 a.m. We expect oral argument in our case to begin at approximately 9:30 a.m.

Learn more about Finney Law Firm’s Open Meetings Law practice here.

Read our previous posts about the case here.

Learn more about the Ohio Coalition for Open Government here.

Learn more about the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press here.

Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan and the Finney Law Firm will give a presentation to the Real Estate Investor’s Association of Greater Cincinnati (REIAGC) covering the property valuation challenge process.

The correct valuation of real property can mean the difference between success and failure for residential and commercial landlords, and their tenants.

On Thursday, March 7, our attorney and Matt Nolan will discuss the procedure for bringing a challenge, issues to consider prior to bringing a challenge, and next steps if the initial challenge is not successful.

Click on this link to the REIAGC’s website for more information or to register to attend. Registration is free for members, $35.00 for non-members.

Learn more about Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan here. Learn more about Finney Law Firm’s Property Valuation practice here.

Attorneys for Cincinnati’s Gang of Five informed us today that Wendell Young and Tamaya Dennard have destroyed text messages responsive to our public records and discovery requests. Dennard claims to have accidentally dropped her phone in a swimming pool and Young simply and intentionally deleted his text messages.


It is our understanding that the messages were destroyed after we filed suit and submitted discovery requests seeking the text messages.  City attorneys were informed over a week ago about this issue, but chose to remain silent until today.

Within the context of Ohio’s Public Records law, destruction of public records is punished by a forfeiture of $1,000 per record. Within the discovery context, sanctions include a finding of contempt of court, fines, and in extreme instances, jail time.

City lawyers claim that they are working to recover the messages if possible, but that leaves questions as to why they represented to the Court of Appeals just yesterday that they had turned over all of the text messages.

Finney Law Firm will also explore removal from office as a potential sanction for Young and Dennard.

Attorneys for the City of Cincinnati today gave the Court of Appeals copies of the text messages responsive to our April 9, 2018 public records request.

Our request seeks communications between members of the self-proclaimed “Gang of Five” (Councilmembers Landsman, Sittenfeld, Dennard, Seelbach, and Young) and any other council member related to the official business of the City of Cincinnati between March 16 and March 18, 2018 (the days the two Gang of Five press releases were put out); and their communications with any other councilmember from March 1 to March 19, 2018 relating to or regarding Harry Black or John Cranley.

Gang of Five member Greg Landsman

The production to the Court will remain under seal until the Court determines which, if any, of the text messages are public records pursuant to Ohio’s Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43.

The Gang of Five argues that because the messages were sent and received using their personal phones, they cannot be considered public records, no matter their content.

In addition to the in camera production, the parties submitted joint stipulations of fact and law to aid the Court’s review. Read the stipulations below or on scribd here.

Notably, the Gang of Five admits to texting other councilmembers about John Cranley and Harry Black during City Council meetings; and that some of these text messages have not been produced in response to our public records request.

We will file a motion for summary judgment by next Monday, the Gang of Five will have one week to oppose our motion, and we will file our reply memo a week after that. Once fully briefed, the case will be set for decision by a three judge panel. We are hopeful that the case will be decided by early January.

Read the Complaint here.

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Finney Law Firm’s lawsuit on behalf of Brittney Heitman against Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval has been remanded back to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Readers will recall that Heitman filed suit in August to have a non-disparagement clause declared unenforceable under Ohio law. Heitman was fired from the clerk of court’s office shortly after Pureval took office. Heitman filed suit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, but Pureval’s attorneys argued the case – premised upon the Ohio State Constitution – should be decided by a federal judge because the Ohio State Constitution mirrors the United States Constitution in some respects.

Nearly three months after Heitman’s motion, and three days after Pureval lost his election for congress, Judge Dlott granted our motion to remand the case, finding that – as we argued – the federal court did not have jurisdiction over the case.

The case now returns to Judge Robert Ruehlman.

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