Recently Clearcreek Township, located in Warren County, Ohio was ordered “to pay $183,807 in fees and $12,748 in costs to lawyers Chris Finney and Curt Hartman.” The trustees were found guilty of illegally meeting regularly prior to public meetings. Before opening session, the trustees would discuss and plan their positions regarding specific issues.
The award of $183,807 was a shockingly high award due to the fact that many did not expect an award to be granted. Plaintiff Jack Chrisman, claimed to not have expected anything, but just wanted to put a stop to the meetings. Furthermore, the meetings that Plaintiff Jack Chrisman wanted to stop are considered a common practice. This ruling may put an end to what the court held to be “illegal pre-meetings before regularly scheduled board meetings.”
Emily Grannis, a lawyer with experience in open meetings and open records cases, said that an award of almost $200,000 for this type of litigation is actually encouraging. Lawyers can benefit greatly from taking on this type of work.
The township has already spent close to $100,000 on legal defense and insurance coverage. Now that their coverages are all used up, they must resort to the public funds out of the general fund in order to pay the attorney fees.