Open meeting law likely violated

Ripley Village Council members meeting during Monday night’s regular meeting.

Ripley Village Council members and the administration seemed to indicate agreement they violated Ohio’s open meeting laws when they discussed other events not pertaining to the reason they called a recent special council meeting.

Ripley Fiscal Officer Lesley Myers said at Monday’s council meeting that at the special council meeting held earlier in June to discuss the hiring of a new solicitor — the only reason for which the meeting was called — Administrator Pete Renshaw updated council on the status of a project by the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ripley’s annual $500 donation to the Ripley Lions Club for its July 4 fireworks show.

At Monday’s meeting, former village councilman David Poole pointed out the current village council’s error. They seemed to indicate by their gestures of acknowledgement that he was right.

Following the meeting, Mayor Tom Leonard declined to comment on the matter.

According to a manual from the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, “when a public body holds a special meeting to discuss particular issues, the statement of the meeting’s purpose must specifically indicate those issues, and the public body may only discuss those specified issues at that meeting.”

The manual cites a decision from the Ohio 11th District Court of Appeals titled Jones v. Brookfield Twp. Trustees and State ex rel. Young v. Bd. of Edn. Lebanon City School Dist. 12th Dist., which found that the school boards failed to comply with their special meeting notice requirements by discussing matters other than what had been the reason for calling the special meeting.

Jay Cutrell, former Ripley solicitor, was not in attendance at the special meeting, per the meeting’s minutes. Neither was his eventual replacement, Thomas Mayes. Mayes declined to comment for this story.