The opening paragraph and first salvo of a lawsuit alleging City officials violated open meeting laws on two separate occasions.
Loveland, Ohio – Loveland resident, Patty Horton-Sandmayr has sued the City of Loveland, individual council members, the City Finance Director, the Community Improvement Corp (CIC) and four of its members for violating Ohio’s open meeting law. She alleges Council illegally went into an executive session on September 13, 2016. She also alleges four members of the CIC went into an illegal closed-door meeting on March 20 of this year. She is asking the Clermont County court to prohibit these actions in the future by issuing an injunction, restraining the City, the CIC, and the individuals, from committing further violations of Ohio’s Open Meeting Act. She is also asking the City and the CIC to each pay a civil forfeiture of $500 each, court costs, and the cost of litigation.
Horton-Sandmayr told Loveland Magazine, “It is time for the people of Loveland to know what our local government is doing. I felt it was time to put all of Loveland issues on hold – hoping we can work together as one community to keep our wonderful town fun and peaceful”.
City Attorney, Joe Braun told Loveland Magazine in an email on Saturday morning, “The lawsuit claims City Council and the Community Improvement Corporation of Loveland failed to designate in their minutes on two occasions the proper section of Ohio law when holding an executive session. I have reviewed the lawsuit and it is based on inaccurate information and has no merit under law. The City will vigorously defend it and seek to have it dismissed.”
Loveland Magazine followed up by asking Braun, ”What information in the suit is inaccurate? Is it that the minutes were not written accurately? Were the proper citations made orally before going into executive session? Or is it something else specifically?” Braun has not responded with an answer.
You can read the complaint that was filed in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas here: Complaint
Named individuals are Mayor Mark Fitzgerald, Vice-Mayor Angie Settell, and councilmembers Kathy Bailey, Pam Gross, Ted Phelps, Rob Weisgerber, and Steve Zmagias. The Community Improvement Corporation members named are, Cory O’Donnell, Jay Stewart, Karl Weidner, and Kelly Flanigan who is also the City Finance Director.
Horton-Sandmayr said that her family moved to Loveland in 1967, and she moved back in town about eighteen years ago.
The CIC is an Ohio not-for-profit, quasi-government agency of the City of Loveland. Recently the CIC has made a controversial recommendation to City Council to demolish City Hall and replace it with a possible 4-story office building in Loveland’s Historic District with one floor of retail, City Hall on the second, and two additional floors of apartments. The CIC has come under fire by both residents and some members of City Council for meeting in a too-small room and during non-traditional hours for public meetings. The CIC has also recently been given the responsibility of selling and developing the City purchased, Loveland Bowling Lanes.
The lawsuit doesn’t purport to know what was discussed during the meetings the public was prohibited from attending other than generic economic development issues that the bodies shouldn’t have been discussing behind closed doors. Horton-Sandmayr told Loveland Magazine on Saturday that she is in the dark as to what was discussed. Neither City Council nor the CIC publishes minutes of their discussions when they are behind closed doors.
Horton-Sandmayr’s attorney is Matt Miller-Novak with the Cincinnati law firm of Godbey Law.