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IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO

STATE EX REL. MARK W. MILLER : CASE NO
3630 Zumstein Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45208 : JUDGE

Relator :
COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE
v. : RELIEF PURSUANT TO R.C. 121.22

ALEXANDER PAUL GEORGE :
SITTENFELD
801 Plum Street, Suite 354 :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
:
and
:
WENDELL YOUNG
801 Plum Street, Suite 352 :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
:
and
:
CHRISTOPHER SEELBACH
801 Plum Street, Suite 350 :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
:
and
:
TAMAYA DENNARD
801 Plum Street, Suite 348 :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
:
and
:
GREG LANDSMAN
801 Plum Street, Suite 346B :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
:
And
:
CITY OF CINCINNATI
801 Plum Street, Room 214 :
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Respondents. :
Democracies die behind closed doors . . . When government begins closing doors,
it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective
information is misinformation.

Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 303 F.3d 681, 683 (6th Cir.2002)

Now comes Mark Miller, on relation to the State of Ohio (“Relator”) and for his

complaint states as follows:

1. This is an action brought to compel compliance with Ohio’s Open Meetings Act and the

Charter of the City of Cincinnati.

2. This action results from the conduct of a cabal of five rogue members of the Cincinnati City

Council, whereby this cabal has conducted illegal meetings of a majority of the members of

the Cincinnati City Council, attempting to decide matters of great public import behind

closed doors and in secret communications, and subverting the public’s right to know and

understand the actions of its public officials.

3. Relator MARK MILLER is a person and resident of Hamilton County, Ohio.

4. Respondent CITY OF CINCINNATI is a body politic and corporate formed and existing

pursuant to Chapter 7 of the Ohio Revised Code.

5. The Cincinnati City Council is the legislative body for the CITY OF CINCINNATI.

6. The Cincinnati City Council is a public body as defined in Section 121.22(B)(1) of the Ohio

Revised Code.

7. The Cincinnati City Council is comprised of nine members.

8. Respondent ALEXANDER PAUL GEORGE SITTENFELD is a resident of Hamilton

County, and is one of nine members of the City Council of the City of Cincinnati.

9. Respondent WENDELL YOUNG is a resident of Hamilton County, and is one of nine

members of the City Council of the City of Cincinnati.

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10. Respondent CHRISTOPHER SEELBACH is a resident of Hamilton County, and is one of

nine members of the City Council of the City of Cincinnati.

11. Respondent TAMAYA DENNARD is a resident of Hamilton County, and is one of nine

members of the City Council of the City of Cincinnati.

12. Respondent GREG LANDSMAN is a resident of Hamilton County, and is one of nine

members of the City Council of the City of Cincinnati.

13. Respondents SITTENFELD, YOUNG, SEELBACH, DENNARD, and LANDSMAN are

referred to herein collectively as the “COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS.”

14. Collectively, the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS constitute a majority of the

members of the Cincinnati City Council.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

15. Jurisdiction is proper in this Court under R.C. § 121.22.

16. Venue is proper in this Court because the actions or occurrences contained in this Complaint

occurred in Hamilton County, Ohio.

BACKGROUND FACTS

17. R.C. 121.22(C) unequivocally declares “[a]ll meetings of any public body are declared to be

public meetings open to the public at all times” and further declares that “[t]he 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.”

18. R.C. 121.22(A) requires that the Sunshine Law “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.”

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19. Article II § 5 of the Cincinnati City Charter unequivocally declares “[t]he proceedings of

council shall be public,” and that “[t]he council shall keep a journal of its proceedings which

shall be a public record.”

20. The purposes of the Ohio Open Meetings Act include: (i) ensuring openness and

accountability in government; (ii) affording citizens the maximum opportunity to observe the

conducting of public business by public bodies; and (iii) affording the accountability of

public officials.

21. Pursuant to R.C. § 121.22, “meetings” includes in person meetings of a majority of the

members of a public body, round robin meetings of a majority of the members of a public

body, as well as emails between a majority of the members of a public body, text messages

between a majority of the members of a public body, as well as video conferencing of a

majority of the members of a public body, or any other form of communication. See, White v.

King, 147 Ohio St.3d 74, 2016-Ohio-2770, 60 N.E.3d 1234, ¶¶ 15-16; See also, State ex rel.

Cincinnati Post v. City of Cincinnati, 76 Ohio St.3d 540, 544, 1996-Ohio-372, 668 N.E.2d

903.

22. “R.C. 121.22 prohibits any private prearranged discussion of public business by a majority of

the members of a public body regardless of whether the discussion occurs face to face,

telephonically, by video conference, or electronically by e-mail, text, tweet, or other form of

communication.” White, at ¶ 15.

23. R.C. § 121.22(F) requires in pertinent part that “[a] public body shall not hold a special

meeting unless it gives at least twenty-four 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

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notify the news media that have requested notification immediately of the time, place, and

purpose of the meeting.”

24. R.C. § 121.22(H) declares invalid any resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind invalid if

it was the result of meetings conducted in violation of R.C. § 121.22.

COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS conduct illegal, secret meetings via email and text.

25. On or about March 16, 2018, the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS issued a press

release (the “First Press Release”). A copy of the First Press Release is attached hereto as

Exhibit 1.

26. On or about March 18, 2018, the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS issued a second

press release (the “Second Press Release”). A copy of the Second Press Release is attached

hereto as Exhibit 2.

27. Both the First Press Release and the Second Press release were distributed in the name of all

of the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (i.e. a majority of the members of the

Cincinnati City Council).

28. Both the First Press Release and the Second Press Release deal with matters of the public

business of the Cincinnati City Council, specifically, the question of whether, and how, to

fire, or otherwise terminate the employment of, the Cincinnati City Manager.

29. On information and belief, the First Press Release and Second Press Release resulted from

meetings (both in person and via various other forms of communication, including without

limitation, emails and text messages) of the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (i.e. a

majority of the members of the Cincinnati City Council).

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30. On information and belief, the First Press Release and Second Press Release resulted from

proceedings of a quorum of the Cincinnati City Council (i.e. the COUNCILMEMBER

RESPONDENTS).

31. Secret meetings such as those set forth herein are anathema to the spirit and intent of Ohio’s

Sunshine law and Cincinnati’s Charter.

32. Upon information and belief, the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS conducted the

meetings and proceedings that resulted in the First Press Release and Second Press Release,

with the purpose and intent of circumventing the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act

and the Cincinnati City Charter.

33. The First Press Release includes the following declaration: “We have watched this

unfortunate saga unfold in recent days, and feel strongly that it is now on us – the Council

Majority – to bring order and a fair process to this situation.”

34. The Second Press Release is styled as a “[s]tatement from the majority of Cincinnati City

Council in light of yesterday’s news,” and includes the declaration: “[o]ur position has not

changed. We do not supprt [sic] an increased buyout or believe that’s responsible to the

taxpayers.”

35. The COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS conducted secret, illegal meetings and/or

proceedings, via electronic, and other, communications, including text and email exchanges

between and amongst a majority of the members of the Cincinnati City Council.

36. On March 16, 2018 at approximately 11:53 a.m. Respondent ALEXANDER PAUL

GEORGE SITTENFELD sent an email with the subject line “Draft letter for Council

Majority to release” sent to the other COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (the “Initial

draft Email”). A copy of the Initial Draft Email is attached hereto as Exhibit 3.

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37. The Initial Draft Email makes clear that the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (i.e. a

majority of the members of the Cincinnati City Council) have conducted prearranged

deliberations and discussions of the public business (i.e. meetings), and that the First Press

Release is the result of such meetings.

38. In the introduction, the Initial Draft Email reads in pertinent part:

39. On information and belief, after receiving the Initial Draft Email, the COUNCILMEMBER

RESPONDENTS conducted additional meetings amongst themselves via telephone, email,

and text message; resulting in revisions and edits to the initial draft of the First Press Release,

ultimately culminating in the final version of the First Press Release.

40. On March 16, 2018 Respondent CHRIS SEELBACH sent an email with the subject line

“REVISED LETTER,” to the other COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (the

“Revisions Email”). A copy of the Revisions Email is attached hereto as Exhibit 4.

41. The Revisions Email makes clear that the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (i.e. a

majority of the members of the Cincinnati City Council) were deliberating and discussing,

and coming to a final decision on, the First Press Release via text messages.

42. The Revisions Email reads in pertinent part as follows:

43. The version of the press release contained in the Revisions Email differs from the version of

the press release contained in the Initial Email, and the final version of the First Press

Release.

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44. On information and belief, the Second Press Release was the result of similar serial meetings

of the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS.

COUNT ONE
Violation of R.C. 121.22 Secret Meetings

45. Relator restates and incorporates by reference the foregoing paragraphs as if fully stated here.

46. The Cincinnati City Council constitutes a “public body” as defined in the Open Meetings

Act. R.C. § 121.22(B)(1).

47. The Cincinnati City Council, and its individual members, i.e. the COUNCILMEMBER

RESPONDENTS named herein, are subject to, inter alia, the mandates of the Open

Meetings Act, which is codified at Section 121.22 of the Ohio Revised Code.

48. The Ohio Open Meetings Acts mandates that the Act itself “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.”

R.C. § 121.22(A).

49. The Open Meetings act also mandates that “[a]ll meetings of any public body” be “public

meetings open to the public at all times.” R.C. § 121.22(C).

50. The Charter of the City of Cincinnati does not permit any exceptions to the requirement of

openness of all proceedings of the Cincinnati City Council. Thus, with respect to the

Cincinnati City Council, there are no matters excepted by law from the requirements of the

Open Meetings Act.

51. In fact, the First District Court of Appeals has declared it “feckless” and “pernicious” to

argue that the Cincinnati City Charter permits non-public meetings of the majority of the

members of the Cincinnati City Council, so long as no vote is held. (“Accepting this

argument would allow the council to always meet behind closed doors, decide what to pass,

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then come out and vote. Not only is this argument feckless, it is pernicious.” State ex rel.

Gannett Satellite Info. Network v. Cincinnati City Council, 137 Ohio App. 3d 589 *, 739

N.E.2d 387, 2000 Ohio App. LEXIS 1520, 28 Media L. Rep. 2462 (Ohio Ct. App., Hamilton

County April 7, 2000).

52. The Ohio Supreme Court has declared “[t]he distinction between serial in-person

communications and serial electronic communications via e-mail for purposes of R.C. 121.22

is a distinction without a difference because discussions of public bodies are to be conducted

in a public forum, and thus, we conclude that in this instance, a prearranged discussion of the

public business of a public body by a majority of its members through a series of private e-

mail communications is subject to R.C. 121.22.” White v. King, 147 Ohio St.3d 74, 2016-

Ohio-2770, 60 N.E.3d 1234, ¶ 18.

53. Likewise, the distinction between serial in-person communications and serial

communications via text message is a distinction without a difference.

54. On March 16, 2018 the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS (i.e. a majority of the

members of the Cincinnati City Council) conducted meetings and/or proceedings of a

majority of the members of the Cincinnati City Council, via text and email exchanges,

specific to the First Press Release.

55. Such meetings were prearranged.

56. Such meetings were not open to the public, in violation of R.C. § 121.22.

57. Further, upon information and belief, the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS held

additional secret meetings after the release of the First Press Release; and the Second Press

Release is the result of such secret meetings of the COUNCILMEMBER

RESPONDENTS.

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58. Thus the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS have violated or threatened to violate

R.C. §121.22 by conducting secret meetings; by excluding the public from such meetings;

and/or by voting or otherwise coming to a decision on a matter of public business during

such illegal secret meetings.

WHEREFORE, Relator on behalf of the State of Ohio, hereby prays and requests

that the Court:

a. Issue a declaratory judgment that the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS,

jointly and severally, have violated or threaten to violate the Ohio Open Meetings Act by

conducting secret meetings;

b. Issue a declaratory judgment that each individual email, text message, or other

communication between the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS related to the First

Press Release and Second Press Release constitutes a distinct violation of the Open Meetings

Act;

c. Issue an injunction prohibiting the COUNCILMEMBER RESPONDENTS, and

their successors in office, from conducting any secret meetings, or by otherwise committing

further violations of the Open Meetings Act;

d. Declare invalid any and all resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind that resulted

from the secret meetings complained of herein;

e. Award Relator a civil forfeiture of five hundred dollars for each distinct violation, as

well as an award of all court costs and reasonable attorney fees; and

f. All other relief to which Relator may be entitled in law or in equity.

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Brian C. Shrive
Brian C. Shrive (0088980)

10
4270 Ivy Pointe Blvd., Suite 225
Cincinnati, OH 45245
brian@finneylawfirm.com
chris@finneylawfirm.com
(513) 943-6656
(513) 943-6669 (fax)

Attorneys for Relator MARK MILLER

PRAECIPE TO CLERK

Please serve the named Defendant/Respondent, by certified mail, return receipt
requested, at the above listed addresses. If service of process by certified mail is returned by the
postal authorities with an endorsement of “refused” or “unclaimed” and if the certificate of
mailing cane be deemed complete not less than five (5) days before any scheduled hearing, the
undersigned waives notice of the failure of service by the clerk and requests ordinary mail
service in accordance with Civil Rule 4.6(C) or (D) and Civil Rule 4.6(E).

/s/ Brian C. Shrive
Brian C. Shrive (0088980)

11
Dear Mayor ~ City Manager Black, Members ofthe Public, and Members of the Media:
We have watched this unfortunate saga unfold in recent days, and feel strongly that it is now on us - the Council
Majority - to bring order and a fair process to this situation.
To be clear, anyonelwho wishes to bring forward concerns or report misconduct must feel safe and comfortable
doing so. We actively want your voice to be heard.
We also believe strongly in due process. No one's name or reputation should be tarnished without there being
clear evidence (beyond just "he said, she said") as well as a fair opportunity for that individual to respond.
We share the serious concern of organizations like the Urban League, Community Action Agency, NAACP, the
Black Agenda, NAN, the Black United Front and others that present behavior is rolling back the clock on race
relations in Cincinnati; we will not abet the intentional denigration of another black leader in our community.
We also do not support forcing the taxpayers to payout of their own pockets for what is currently a broken
relationship. We believe there are much better immediate next steps.
First, this situation clearly must be de-politicized and taken out of the hands of those most directly in the fog of
war: Therefore, we are calling for the appointment of an outside Special Counsel (appointed by a majority of
City Council), to collect and investigate the concerns raised by the Mayor, any and all counter-~ from the
City Manager, and testimony from city employees or any other directly involved stakeholders. This Special
Counsel will then write a report to be submitted to City Council for our review.
At the same time, we are calling for a ceasefire between the Mayor and City Manager, during which they both
agree to say nothing more on the subject and to focus on the City's work. During this ceasefire, Council will
bring in a pro bono mediator to privately help the Mayor and Manager navigate their relationship and return to
getting things done for the citizens of Cincinnati. Lastly, during this ceasefire, we call for no personnel changes.
Council will control this process as it unfolds, and ifthe need and desire for what the Mayor has called a "public
trial" remains, then Council will control the time, date, and location of such a special meeting. Because of the
significant interest from concerned members of the community, such a specially-called meeting would occur in
the evening, be held out in the community, and be posted with at least two weeks notice to the public.
We look forward to cool heads prevailing, these issues being properly addressed, and everyone getting back to
work for the city we love.
Sincerely,
Tama~a Dennard
P.G. !iitt~l)telQ.
Greg Landsman Exhibit 1
Wendell Young
Chris Seelbach
Statement from the majority of Cincinnati City Council in light of
yesterday's news:
IIO ur position has not changed. We do not suppprt an increased buyout
or believe that's responsible to the taxpayers.
We reiterate our call for a ceasefire, and we remain committed to the
thoughtful, fair, transparent next steps we have previously laid out. Let's
collect the needed facts quickly and calmly.
We believe in a collaborative process, and look forward to working
through this with all stakeholders.1I
- Tamaya Dennard
-P.G. Sittenfeld
-Greg Landsman
-Wendell Young
-Chris Seelbach
Exhibit 2
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ǁĂŶƚƚŽǀŽůƵŶƚĞĞƌĨŽƌƚŚĂƚ͍  

Dear Mayor Cranley, Members of the Public, and Members of the Media: 

We have watched this unfortunate saga unfold in recent days, and feel strongly that it is now on us - the
Council Majority - to bring order and a fair process to this situation. 

To be clear, anyone who wishes to bring forward concerns or report misconduct must feel safe and
comfortable doing so. We actively want your voice to be heard. 

We also believe strongly in due process. No one’s name or reputation should be tarnished without there being
clear evidence (beyond just “he said, she said”) as well as a fair opportunity for that individual to respond. 

First, this situation clearly must be de-politicized and taken out of the hands of those most directly in the fog of
war: Therefore, we are calling for the appointment of an outside Special Counsel (appointed by a majority of
City Council), to collect and investigate the concerns raised by the Mayor, any and all counter-factuals from the
City Manager, and testimony from city employees or any other directly involved stakeholders involved. This
Special Counsel will then write a report to be submitted to City Council for our review.  

At the same time, we are calling for a ceasefire between the Mayor and City Manager, during which they both
agree to say nothing more on the subject and to focus on the City’s work. During this ceasefire, Council will
bring in a pro bono mediator to help the Mayor and Manager navigate their relationship and return to getting
things done for the citizens of Cincinnati. Lastly, during this ceasefire, we call for no personnel changes. 

We look forward to cool heads prevailing, these issues being properly addressed, and everyone getting back to
work for the city we love. 

Sincerely, 

Tamaya Dennard
P.G. Sittenfeld

Exhibit 3
Greg Landsman
Wendell Young
Chris Seelbach  


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March 16, 2018


Exhibit 4
Dear Mayor Cranley, City Manager Black, Members
of the Public, and Members of the Media: 

We have watched this unfortunate saga unfold in
recent days, and feel strongly that it is now on us -
the Council Majority - to bring order and a fair
process to this situation. 

To be clear, anyone who wishes to bring forward
concerns or report misconduct must feel safe and
comfortable doing so. We actively want your voice
to be heard. 

We also believe strongly in due process. No one’s
name or reputation should be tarnished without
there being clear evidence (beyond just “he said,
she said”) as well as a fair opportunity for that
individual to respond.  

We share the serious concern of organizations like
the Urban League, Community Action Agency,
NAACP and others that present behavior is rolling
back the clock on race relations in Cincinnati; we
will not abet the intentional denigration of another
black leader in our community.  

We also do not support forcing the taxpayers to pay
out of their own pockets for what is currently a
broken relationship. We believe there are much
better immediate next steps. 

First, this situation clearly must be de-politicized
and taken out of the hands of those most directly in
the fog of war: Therefore, we are calling for the
appointment of an outside Special Counsel
(appointed by a majority of City Council), to collect
and investigate the concerns raised by the Mayor,
any and all counter-factuals from the City Manager,
and testimony from city employees or any other
directly involved stakeholders. This Special
Counsel will then write a report to be submitted to
City Council for our review.  

At the same time, we are calling for a ceasefire
between the Mayor and City Manager, during which
they both agree to say nothing more on the subject
and to focus on the City’s work. During this
ceasefire, Council will bring in a pro bono mediator
to privately help the Mayor and Manager navigate
their relationship and return to getting things done
for the citizens of Cincinnati. Lastly, during this
ceasefire, we call for no personnel changes. 

Council will control this process as it unfolds, and if
the need and desire for what the Mayor has called

a “public trial” remains, then Council will control the
time, date, and location of such a special meeting.
Because of the significant interest from concerned
members of the community, such a specially-called
meeting would occur in the evening, be held out in
the community, and be posted with at least two
weeks notice to the public.

We look forward to cool heads prevailing, these
issues being properly addressed, and everyone
getting back to work for the city we love.

Sincerely,

Tamaya Dennard
P.G. Sittenfeld
Greg Landsman
Wendell Young
Chris Seelbach