Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
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January 17, 2017
Friday, November 2, 2018
Ohio’s Public Records Act, Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43, requires public offices to provide access to its records. Ohio’s “sunshine law” is among the most liberal in the nation, requiring that records be provided swiftly to requests.
With limited exceptions, all types of records kept by Ohio’s state and local governments are subject to public-records requests. If a record is kept by a public office, and documents its organization, function, or decisions, it is generally available as a public record. For example, all public-employee personnel records, including records of employee training and discipline, are public records.
But certain information, such as the employee’s social-security number and home address will be redacted in a response. Other types of records that are available as public records include inspection reports, property sale and transfer records, records of spending on contracts or vendors, tax records, zoning records, meeting minutes for county or township boards, and electronic communications such as emails or text message.
Types of records that are not typically available include records relating to children such as juvenile-delinquency records, adoption records, and child-support records. Records in the state’s DNA database are also not available. Certain law-enforcement records are also excluded. Medical records of public hospitals are also excluded from the definition of “public records” under the statute.
Effective November 2, 2018, the Ohio General Assembly expanded the applicability of the state’s public-records law. The statute now includes “future officials,” meaning those who have been elected but have not yet taken office. The changes also expand the availability of statutory damages to include requests submitted electronically. Under the previous version of the law, only requests submitted by hand delivery or certified mail were eligible for statutory damages if a public office fails to comply with its response obligations.
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