COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Two residents filed a lawsuit against the Colerain Township Board of Trustees on Wednesday, accusing it of holding illegal, secret meetings to hire a law firm for government business.
This is the latest in a string of lawsuits filed by concerned citizens against local governments accusing them of violating the Ohio Open Meetings Act.
“We have seen growth in our local government practice," said Matt Miller-Novak, who filed the case against Colerain in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. "I am grateful we are getting more opportunities to advocate for citizens' rights and good government.”
Miller-Novak recently settled a similar case with Milford City Council for $37,000. That suit accused council members of holding secret, illegal meetings to advance the sale of property to FC Cincinnati for a new training complex in Clermont County.
As part of that settlement, Milford leaders agreed to attend three hours of remedial training on Ohio’s open meetings laws.
“Media coverage of local governments' actions is extremely important to ensure that the public knows its rights,” Miller-Novak said.
Miller-Novak has similar lawsuits pending against Milford Exempted Village School District, Madison Local School Board, Clermont County Commission and the village of Amelia.
In his most recent suit, he represents two Colerain Township residents – Kathy Mohr and Stephanie Wright – who accuse the three-member board of trustees of holding secret meetings to vote on which law firm to hire for township business in late 2018.
Trustees called two executive session meetings saying they needed to discuss employee compensation, which is a legal reason to meet in private, according to the lawsuit.
Instead the trustees actually interviewed representatives from four law firms and then voted to hire Schroeder, Maundrill, Barbiere, & Powers, the lawsuit alleges.
“This is common practice in Colerain,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that one trustee posted on Facebook that, “Colerain never places anything on the (meeting) agenda unless at least two of the trustees vote and tell the administrator that they approve of the public action,” according to the lawsuit.
Colerain Township Administrator Geoff Milz did not comment on the lawsuit.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Milz said.