Lawsuit claims Kidron Volunteer Fire Department should be subject to Ohio’s Open Meetings Act

From The Independent

Three Wayne County men have filed suit asking that the Kidron Volunteer Fire Department be declared a public agency subject to Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.

The Kidron Volunteer Fire Department, and its operation, is once again under scrutiny.

Three Wayne County men have gone to court, arguing that the department, a nonprofit agency that receives public funding, is not a private agency.

Earl Miller, of Dalton; Mark Greer, of Lawrence Township; and Jedd Sprunger, of Dalton filed a second lawsuit in September in Wayne County Common Pleas Court seeking to have the department declared a public body that must hold open meetings and advertise its meeting schedule. The lawsuit asks that the department be ordered to comply with Ohio’s Open Meetings Act.

Ohio’s Sunshine Law requires public bodies to hold open meetings, and offers specific reasons for allowing public entities to meet behind closed doors.

The same men, plus a fourth person, had filed a lawsuit early this year in the Ohio Supreme Court alleging the department did not comply with requests for financial documents, minutes and other information the group considered to be public records.

The men argued in court documents that the fire department has a legal duty to provide the requested information because “both fire prevention and EMS are defined as governmental functions.”

The fire department settled the public records case by agreeing to produce documents requested in the future, according to a news release from law firm representing the men. However, the department maintained it was not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

James Matthews, an attorney with Baker, Dublikar, Wiley & Matthews in North Canton, represents the Wayne County men. He said the fire department believes it does not have to hold open meetings because it’s a private fire company.

Matthews said the department “functions largely off of tax money and also public grants. It’s our position that, since the board has agreed it is structured under the Ohio Revised Code, that it does have to comply with open meeting requirements.”

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