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(A) This section shall be liberally construed to require public officials to take official action and to conduct all deliberations upon official business only in open meetings, unless the subject matter is specifically excepted by law.
(B) As used in this section:
MEETING. Any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members.
PUBLIC BODY. Any of the following:
(a) Any board, commission, committee, council or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution or authority, and any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority or similar decision-making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution;
(b) Any committee or subcommittee of a body described in division (a) of this definition; or
(c) A court of jurisdiction of a sanitary district organized wholly for the purpose of providing a water supply for domestic municipal and public use when meeting for the purpose of the appointment, removal or reappointment of a member of the board of directors of such a district pursuant to R.C. § 6115.10, if applicable, or for any other matter related to such a district other than litigation involving the district. As used in this division (c), COURT OF JURISDICTION has the same meaning as “court” in R.C. § 6115.01.
PUBLIC OFFICE. Has the same meaning as in R.C. § 149.011.
REGULATED INDIVIDUAL. Either of the following:
(a) A student in a state or local public educational institution; or
(b) A person who is, voluntarily or involuntarily, an inmate, patient or resident of a state or local institution because of criminal behavior, mental illness, an intellectual disability, disease, disability, age or other condition requiring custodial care.
(C) (1) All meetings of any public body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times. A member of a public body shall be present in person at a meeting open to the public to be considered present or to vote at the meeting and for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting.
(2) The minutes of a regular or special meeting of any public body shall be promptly prepared, filed and maintained and shall be open to public inspection. The minutes need only reflect the general subject matter of discussions in executive sessions authorized under division (F) of this section.
(D) This section does not apply to any of the following: a grand jury; an audit conference conducted by the auditor of state or independent certified public accountants with officials of the public office that is the subject of the audit; or to other state agencies as set forth in R.C. § 121.22(D) and (E).
(E) (1) Every public body, by rule, shall establish a reasonable method whereby any person may determine the time and place of all regularly scheduled meetings and the time, place and purpose of all special meetings. A public body shall not hold a special meeting unless it gives at least 24 hours advance notice to the news media that have requested notification, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the member or members calling the meeting shall notify the news media that have requested notification immediately of the time, place and purpose of the meeting.
(2) The rule shall provide that any person, upon request and payment of a reasonable fee, may obtain reasonable advance notification of all meetings at which any specific type of public business is to be discussed. Provisions for advance notification may include but are not limited to mailing the agenda of meetings to all subscribers on a mailing list or mailing notices in self-addressed, stamped envelopes provided by the person.
(F) Except as provided division (F)(8) of this section, the members of a public body may hold an executive session only after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an executive session and only at a regular or special meeting for the sole purpose of the consideration of any of the following matters:
(1) To consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee or regulated individual requests a public hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official’s official duties or for the elected official’s removal from office. If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (F)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (F)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held, but need not include the name of any person to be considered at the meeting;
(2) (a) To consider the purchase of property for public purposes, the sale of property at competitive bidding, or the sale or other disposition of unneeded, obsolete, or unfit-for-use property in accordance with R.C. § 505.10, if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest. No member of a public body shall use this division (F)(2) as a subterfuge for providing covert information to prospective buyers or sellers. A purchase or sale of public property is void if the seller or buyer of the public property has received covert information from a member of a public body that has not been disclosed to the general public in sufficient time for other prospective buyers and sellers to prepare and submit offers.
(b) If the minutes of the public body show that all meetings and deliberations of the public body have been conducted in compliance with this section, any instrument executed by the public body purporting to convey, lease, or otherwise dispose of any right, title or interest in any public property shall be conclusively presumed to have been executed in compliance with this section insofar as title or other interest of any bona fide purchasers, lessees, or transferees of the property is concerned.
(3) Conferences with an attorney for the public body concerning disputes involving the public body that are the subject of pending or imminent court action;
(4) Preparing for, conducting or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment;
(5) Matters required to be kept confidential by federal law or regulations or state statutes;
(6) Details relative to the security arrangements and emergency response protocols for a public body or a public office, if disclosure of the matters discussed could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the security of the public body or public office;
(7) In the case of a county hospital operated pursuant to R.C. Chapter 339, a joint township hospital operated pursuant to R.C. Chapter 513, or a municipal hospital operated pursuant to R.C. Chapter 749, to consider trade secrets, as defined in R.C. § 1333.61;
(8) To consider confidential information related to the marketing plans, specific business strategy, production techniques, trade secrets, or personal financial statements of an applicant for economic development assistance, or to negotiations with other political subdivisions respecting requests for economic development assistance, provided that both of the following conditions apply:
(a) The information is directly related to a request for economic development assistance that is to be provided or administered under any provision of R.C. Chapter 715, 725, 1724, or 1728 or R.C. §§ 701.07, 3735.67 to 3735.70, 5709.40 to 5709.43, 5709.61 to 5709.69, 5709.73 to 5709.75, or 5709.77 to 5709.81, or that involves public infrastructure improvements or the extension of utility services that are directly related to an economic development project.
(b) A unanimous quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, that the executive session is necessary to protect the interests of the applicant or the possible investment or expenditure of public funds to be made in connection with the economic development project.
(9) If a public body holds an executive session to consider any of the matters listed in divisions (F)(2) through (F)(8) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved matters listed in those divisions are to be considered at the executive session; or
(10) A public body specified in division (c) of the definition of “public body” in this section shall not hold an executive session when meeting for the purposes specified in that division (c).
(G) A resolution, rule or formal action of any kind is invalid unless adopted in an open meeting of the public body. A resolution, rule or formal action adopted in an open meeting that results from deliberations in a meeting not open to the public is invalid unless the deliberations were for a purpose specifically authorized in division (F) of this section and conducted at an executive session held in compliance with this section. A resolution, rule or formal action adopted in an open meeting is invalid if the public body that adopted the resolution, rule or formal action violated division (E) of this section.
(H) (1) Any person may bring an action to enforce this section. An action under this division (H)(1) shall be brought within two years after the date of the alleged violation or threatened violation. Upon proof of a violation or threatened violation of this section in an action brought by any person, the court of common pleas shall issue an injunction to compel the members of the public body to comply with its provisions.
(2) (a) If the court of common pleas issues an injunction pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section, the court shall order the public body that it enjoins to pay a civil forfeiture of $500 to the party that sought the injunction and shall award to that party all court costs and, subject to reduction as described in this division (H)(2), reasonable attorney’s fees. The court, in its discretion, may reduce an award of attorney’s fees to the party that sought the injunction or not award attorney’s fees to that party if the court determines both of the following:
1. That, based on the ordinary application of statutory law and case law as it existed at the time of violation or threatened violation that was the basis of the injunction, a well-informed public body reasonably would believe that the public body was not violating or threatening to violate this section;
2. That a well-informed public body reasonably would believe that the conduct or threatened conduct that was the basis of the injunction would serve the public policy that underlies the authority that is asserted as permitting that conduct or threatened conduct.
(b) If the court of common pleas does not issue an injunction pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section and the court determines at that time that the bringing of the action was frivolous conduct, as defined in R.C. § 2323.51(A), the court shall award to the public body all court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, as determined by the court.
(3) Irreparable harm and prejudice to the party that sought the injunction shall be conclusively and irrebuttably presumed upon proof of a violation or threatened violation of this section.
(4) A member of a public body who knowingly violates an injunction issued pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section may be removed from office by an action brought in the court of common pleas for that purpose by the prosecuting attorney or the attorney general.
(R.C. § 121.22) (Rev. 2017)
Application of open meetings and exceptions to specific state bodies, see R.C. § 121.22(D), (E) and (J)