Music festival organizers, concert-goer sue Dr. Amy Acton

Ohio's top health official Dr. Amy Acton talks Thursday a news conference with Gov. Mike DeWine.
Ohio's top health official Dr. Amy Acton talks Thursday a news conference with Gov. Mike DeWine.(FOX19 NOW)
Updated: Jun. 11, 2020 at 8:16 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hours after Gov. Mike DeWine announced his administration’s top health official was stepping down, she got sued again.

In the latest litigation against Dr. Amy Acton over coronavirus restrictions, two Ohio music festival organizers allege she is violating their First Amendment rights with her statewide ban on music festivals.

Organizers of Bellwether Music Festival in Warren County and Country Fest in Stark County, along with “a concert goer” who is an anti-tax activist with COAST, sued Acton in both her professional and personal status and the county health districts.

Acton, the federal suit contends, is acting outside the scope of her office and it’s unfair to block the events while mass protests against police brutality are permitted.

Several media photos showing thousands of people protesting in the streets of Ohio’s major cities, including Cincinnati, are included in the lawsuit’s pages.

“There is no difference,” wrote attorney Curt Hartman, "between a large crowd gathering in the downtown of a large Ohio city to hear speech from speakers versus a large crowd gathering at Renaissance Park or Clay’s Park Resort (or at other venues) to hear speech in the form of music and other entertainment.

“Yet, Amy Acton has, through her decrees and actions, explicitly allowed and condoned the former while prohibiting outright the latter. Furthermore, Amy Acton has decreed and permitted amusement parks (including King’s Island and Cedar Point) to open and operate wherein musical performances also take place and are allowed to occur.”

The “concert goer,” Mark Miller, says in the complaint his rights are being violated because he’s prevented from attending the festivals, held each year in August.

Miller is treasurer of Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). He was the plaintiff on the “Gang of Five” lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati and five council members for the release of their secret texts and emails they exchanged to privately conduct city business.

Now Miller has joined the music festival organizers’ lawsuit alleging Dr. Acton acted in an “unknown, arbitrary and ad hoc” nature and, as a result, Bellwether concert organizers are unsure if the festival can go on as planned and stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The suit goes on to allege COVID-19 predictions from Acton and Gov. Mike DeWine and the basis for Acton’s statewide stay at home orders were inaccurate and predictions of dramatic increases in cases did not occur.

"At no time, " Hartman wrote, “during the past three months has (a) hospital or medical provider, in the State of Ohio or elsewhere in the United States, been unable to have a ventilator or other medical equipment when needed to treat a person infected with COVID-19.”

“And the baseless and ad hoc nature by which the decrees of Amy Acton and the restrictions on constitutional rights effectuated therein can be seen further in other pronouncement and actions of Amy Acton and/or Governor DeWine.”

The festival organizers and Miller asked the judge to throw out Acton’s May 29 order restricting parades, fairs, festivals, and carnivals.

They also want the court to prevent Acton and the health district officials from impeding or threatening festival vendors with legal action.

Acton could not be reached for comment Thursday evening. We left messages for comment with a spokesman for the governor and Attorney General Dave Yost.

We will update this story when we hear back.

DeWine and Acton have repeatedly said Ohioans adherence to public health orders, social distancing, and other recommendations has worked and helped prevent worst-case scenarios.

Last week, however, Ohio’s three largest amusement and water parks all sued - Kings Island, Cedar Fair (Cedar Point’s owner), and Kalahari water park.

The next day, DeWine said they could reopen Friday, June 19 and he already was planning to announce that opening date before the lawsuits were filed.

A Warren County judge has denied a temporary restraining order request in the lawsuit filed by Kings Island and Cedar Fair but set a hearing next week on the rest of the lawsuit’s demands.

In the meantime, Kings Island has announced it will open to those with season passes from Thursday, July 2 through Saturday, July 11. Everyone will be admitted starting Sunday, July 12.

Cedar Point season pass holders can enter the park Thursday, July 9 and daily ticket holders will be allowed to enter Sunday, July 12.

An Erie County held a hearing Monday in the Kalahari water park case and is expected to issue a decision soon.

Last month, a group of Ohio gyms and fitness centers were successful in their litigation to reopen and a group northeast Ohio restaurants also sued.

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