101.15 Public committee meetings.

(A) As used in this section:

(1) "Caucus" means all of the members of either house of the general assembly who are members of the same political party.

(2) "Committee" means any committee of either house of the general assembly, a joint committee of both houses of the general assembly, including a committee of conference, or a subcommittee of any committee listed in division (A)(2) of this section.

(3) "Meeting" means any prearranged discussion of the public business of a committee by a majority of its members.

(B) Except as otherwise provided in division (F) of this section, all meetings of any committee are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times. The secretary assigned to the chairperson of the committee shall prepare, file, and maintain the minutes of every regular or special meeting of a committee. The committee, at its next regular or special meeting, shall approve the minutes prepared, filed, and maintained by the secretary, or, if the minutes prepared, filed, and maintained by the secretary require correction before their approval, the committee shall correct and approve the minutes at the next following regular or special meeting. The committee shall make the minutes available for public inspection not later than seven days after the meeting the minutes reflect or not later than the committee's next regular or special meeting, whichever occurs first.

(C) Each committee 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. No committee shall hold a regular or special meeting unless it gives at least twenty-four hours' advance notice to the news media that have requested notification.

The method established by each committee shall provide that upon request and payment of a reasonable fee, any person may obtain reasonable advance notification of all meetings at which any specific type of public business will 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 who desires advance notification.

(D) Any action of a committee relating to a bill or resolution, or any other formal action of a committee, is invalid unless taken in an open meeting of the committee. Any action of a committee relating to a bill or resolution, or any other formal action of a committee, taken in an open meeting is invalid if it results from deliberations in a meeting not open to the public.

(E)

(1) Any person may bring an action to enforce this section. An action under this division 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 committee to comply with its provisions.

(2)

(a) If the court of common pleas issues an injunction under division (E)(1) of this section, the court shall order the committee that it enjoins to pay a civil forfeiture of five hundred dollars 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, 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:

(i) That, based on the ordinary application of statutory law and case law as it existed at the time of the violation or threatened violation that was the basis of the injunction, a well-informed committee reasonably would believe that the committee was not violating or threatening to violate this section;

(ii) That a well-informed committee 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 under division (E)(1) of this section and the court determines at that time that the bringing of the action was frivolous conduct as defined in division (A) of section 2323.51 of the Revised Code, the court shall award to the committee 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 committee who knowingly violates an injunction issued under division (E)(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 of Franklin county or by the attorney general.

(5) The remedies described in divisions (E)(1) to (4) of this section shall be the exclusive remedies for a violation of this section.

(F) This section does not apply to or affect either of the following:

(1) All meetings of the joint legislative ethics committee created under section 101.34 of the Revised Code other than a meeting that is held for any of the following purposes:

(a) To consider the adoption, amendment, or recission of any rule that the joint legislative ethics committee is authorized to adopt pursuant to division (B)(11) of section 101.34 , division (E) of section 101.78 , division (B) of section 102.02 , or division (E) of section 121.68 of the Revised Code;

(b) To discuss and consider changes to any administrative operation of the joint legislative ethics committee other than any matter described in division (G) of section 121.22 of the Revised Code;

(c) To discuss pending or proposed legislation.

(2) Meetings of a caucus.

(G) For purposes of division (F)(1)(a) of this section, an advisory opinion, written opinion, or decision relative to a complaint is not a rule.

Effective Date: 09-05-2001