MUNROE FALLS — City council will consider reprimanding one of its members despite an agreement to resolve a legal dispute initiated by the councilman.

Councilman Mike Barnes filed a complaint last August in Summit County Common Pleas Court against the city and Mayor James Armstrong, saying he had not received responses to his public records requests. In November, the city filed a counterclaim, seeking an order for Barnes to “immediately produce” documents that the city requested from him in early October.

In a court filing earlier this month, all parties “agreed to fully and finally settle all matters" related to the dispute. Each side is responsible for its own legal expenses.

Armstrong said the city's outside legal fees amounted to about $45,000; he and the six other city council members are supporting a proposal to reprimand Barnes at the council's Aug. 6 meeting because taxpayers must foot that bill.

(The city said Law Director Tom Kostoff could not be involved in the legal action due to concerns of a possible conflict of interest.)

Armstrong said the figure doesn’t include the cost of city personnel in the process of filling the public records requests.

Council President Jenny Markovich said the proposed reprimand is the council’s way “to say to Mr. Barnes, ‘we don’t appreciate what you did.'"

“It is incomprehensible to me why a city council person would file this type of lawsuit, resulting in legal fees to the city he purports to represent,” she said.

“I want our residents to know the facts. The city could have used these taxpayer dollars to provide additional city services to benefit our residents and businesses.”

Barnes said he felt filing the lawsuit was necessary when he believed his public record requests were being ignored or delayed and he was unable to get responses from the city. “I needed to get their attention,” he said.

“The tragedy here is I legally asked for and complied with Ohio’s public records law. They stalled and acted like it was my fault, but it is their fault,” he added.

Barnes acknowledged he was asked to drop his case. “I said ‘yes, once the city responded to my requests.’ Not a single councilor asked what the city was doing to respond to my legal requests.”

Both Armstrong and Barnes have filed paperwork seeking to run for mayor in the November election.

When asked about the proposed reprimand, Barnes responded: “This is a ridiculous political stunt to deflect attention from the consequence of ignoring lawful requests for information that later proved to be embarrassing . . . I look forward to the flogging and to giving our citizens a response to [council’s] petty and meaningless allegations reprimanding me for my constitutionally protected actions.”

Armstrong sees it another way, calling it a “politically motivated lawsuit,” saying the city had responded to over 90 percent of Barnes’ record requests. “Personally, I think it was just a publicity stunt,” he said, adding he believes Barnes “was just out to cause problems . . . I never thought the lawsuit had any business being filed in the first place.”