Skindell files Open Meetings Act Lawsuit

Michael J. Skindell today announced that he has filed action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas (MICHAEL J. SKINDELL v. MARY LOUISE MADIGAN, ET AL., Civil Case Number CV-15-855961) alleging that Lakewood City Council violated Ohio’s Open Meeting Act when the council held multiple closed meetings to deliberate and draft an agreement to close Lakewood Hospital. Skindell is currently the State Senator representing Lakewood in the Ohio Legislature.

The Open Meetings Act requires that all public bodies take official action and conduct all deliberations only in open meetings where the public can attend and observe. R.C. § 121.22(A). The law allows a public body to hold an “executive session”, i.e., closed meeting, on certain matters including purchase of property or sale of property in some competitive bidding situations. R.C. § 121.22(G) and (J). Official action by a public body which violates the provision of the Open Meeting Act is invalid. R.C. § 121.22(H).

In the action alleging that city council violated the law, Michael Skindell cites  the fact that reasons supplied for the executive sessions — [g]eneral conversation about the Letter of Intent submitted to Council by the Lakewood Hospital Association (LHA), the Lakewood Hospital Foundation (LHF), and Cleveland Clinic (referred 1/20/15), including the potential purchase of property; the sale of real or personal property by competitive bid if disclosure of the information would result in a competitive advantage to the person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest; and/or pending litigation — were not proper topics for closed meetings. In addition, matters discussed were beyond the reasons in the notice. Skindell points out that although there were reasons noticed for the closed session such as purchase of property by the city, and sale of property by competitive bid, there was no purchase of property or sale of property by competitive bidding as part of the agreement.

Michael Skindell stated: “During my eighteen years in public office I have always advocated for transparency and accountability in government. This action against Lakewood City Council is to correct, in what I perceive, an abuse of the public trust. Citizens have a right to know what their government is up to and how they reached their decisions. It is my belief that Lakewood City Council violated the law in reaching their agreement involving the closing of Lakewood Hospital. I have a responsibility to the people to ensure that government is open and accountable to the public.”

Judge Stuart Friendman has scheduled a hearing for Monday, December 21, 2015, to consider a Skindell’s motion for a preliminary injunction.