White v. King

60 N.E.2d 1234 (2016)

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White v. King

Ohio Supreme Court
60 N.E.2d 1234 (2016)



A local school-board member, Adam White (plaintiff), conducted his own investigation into the mishandling of school funds by two school athletic directors. The board president, David King, and the four other board members (collectively, the opponent board members) (defendants) opposed White’s personal investigation into the potential fund misuse. In response to White’s rogue investigation, the opponent board members voted to require future communications between board members and school staff to go through the district superintendent or treasurer. A local newspaper editorial praised White’s investigative efforts and alleged that the opponent members passed the new communication limitations on members to stymie further investigations into fund misuse. King encouraged all the board members except White, as well as some school staff members, to collaborate to create a public response to the editorial’s criticisms. These board and school-staff members drafted a response to the editorial’s criticisms through a series of emails to one another. King submitted their final joint response to the newspaper. Later, at a public meeting, the board members voted to publicly ratify their response to the editorial. White sued his opponent board members in state court, claiming the email exchanges constituted private prearranged discussions of public business, violating the state’s Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Act, also called the Sunshine Law, required meetings of any public body to be open to the public. White sought a declaratory judgment, statutory damages, a restraining order, and injunctive relief. The opponent board members argued that emails did not constitute meetings within the meaning of the Sunshine Law. The lower court granted the opponent board members’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, ruling that emails were not public meetings subject to the Sunshine Law. White appealed to the state appellate court, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling. White then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Donnell, J.)

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