Ohio Open Records Law
- 1 Relevant legal cases
- 2 Transparency report card
- 3 Features of the law
- 3.1 Declared legal intention
- 3.2 What records are covered?
- 3.3 What agencies are covered?
- 3.4 Who may request records?
- 3.5 Must a purpose be stated?
- 3.6 How can records be used?
- 3.7 Time allowed for response
- 3.8 Fees for records
- 3.9 Role of the Attorney General
- 4 Ohio government websites
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 References
The Ohio Open Records Law is contained in Section 149.43 of the Ohio Revised Code. The law describes what records are available, what agencies are covered, what fees can be charged, who can ask for records, and so on.
The Ohio Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Ohio FOIA procedures.
Relevant legal cases
Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in Ohio (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).
|Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. City of Akron||1965|
|State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Krings||2001|
|State ex rel. Fostoria Daily Review Co. v. Fostoria Hospital Association||1988|
|State ex rel. Freedom Communications Inc. v. Elida Community Fire Company||1998|
|State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland||1996|
|State ex rel. Steffen v. Kraft||1993|
|State ex rel. Toledo Blade v. University of Toledo Foundation||1992|
|State ex rel. WBNS TV Inc. v. Dues||2004|
|State ex rel. Warren Newspapers Inc. v. Hutson||1994|
|State of Ohio v. Allen||2005|
|TBC Westlake Inc. v. Hamilton County Board of Revision||1998|
|The Cincinnati Enquirer v. Walter Handy and Malcolm Adcock||2005|
|Wells v. Lewis||1901|
Transparency report card
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Ohio 34 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 41 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations
- Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
Declared legal intention
The motivating idea behind Ohio's right-to-know laws was expressed by an Ohio court in 1994 when it wrote, "public records are the people's records, and officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people."
It is important to note that all government divisions are required to adopt a public records policy and nominate a keeper of the records. They are also required to give a copy of their public records policy to their particular custodian and he or she must sign that they have received it. Further, the law requires that "[t]he public office shall create a poster that describes its public records policy and shall post the poster in a conspicuous place in the public office and in all locations where the public office has branch offices."
What records are covered?
- See also: Defining public records
All records "kept by any public office," as well as records of both non-profit and for-profit private schools, are covered.
Notable exemptions include but are not limited to:
- medical records
- parole or probation hearings
- adoption, parentage and DNA information
- trial preparation information
- law enforcement investigations
- inmate records
- Department of youth services records
- intellectual property
- donor information
- "peace officer, parole officer, prosecuting attorney, assistant prosecuting attorney, correctional employee, youth services employee, firefighter, or EMT residential and familial information"
- hospital trade secrets
- juvenile recreation information
- financial and personal information of individuals applying for financial assistance
However, Ohio law requires departments to separate exempt and non-exempt material in the same source and release the non-exempt material.
- See also: Deliberative process exemption
What agencies are covered?
- See also: Defining public body
Agencies include all branches of government and any organization that was "established by the constitution and laws of this state for the exercise of any function of state government," as well as all political subdivisions.
- "Any record used by a court to render a decision is a record subject to R.C. 149.43," according to State ex rel. WBNS TV Inc. v. Dues, a 2004 decision.
- Trial judges are not required under the law to release personal notes taken about cases over which they are presiding, according to the 1993 decision in State ex rel. Steffen v. Kraft.
- In 1998, a court said the report of an attorney-examiner to a county Board of Tax Appeals is exempt from disclosure because a Board of Tax Appeals is a "quasi-judicial body" which is entitled to the deliberative privacy of the courts: TBC Westlake Inc. v. Hamilton County Board of Revision.
- See also: Legislatures and transparency
- Documents of the state legislature that are exempted from disclosure include:
- Documents that are not filed with the clerk of the General Assembly.
- Documents that communicate between legislative staff and a member of the General Assembly.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland that the doctrine of separation of powers may mean that Ohio's sunshine law does not apply to the records of the state's constitutional officers (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, and Attorney General).
Privatized governmental agencies
Ohio's definition of public body within the Open Records Law is fairly expansive and contains four distinct instances where private entities could be considered public bodies.
- If the private agency receives public funds.
- If an agency performs a public function and receives funds.
- If an agency performs a public function and is controlled by a public entity.
- If an agency was created by a public body and performs a public function.
- In State ex rel. Toledo Blade v. University of Toledo Foundation, a 1992 decision, a court ruled that records of donors to a private corporation that functioned as the fundraising arm of a state university should be public.
- In State ex rel. Fostoria Daily Review Co. v. Fostoria Hospital Association, a 1988 decision, a court ruled that the minutes of meetings of the board of trustees of a nonprofit corporation operating a municipal hospital should be public.
- In State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland, a court ruled that resumes received by a private executive search firm hired by the city of Cleveland to find candidates for city police chief should be public.
- See also: Universities and open records
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material, intellectual property and donor information are explicitly exempted under Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1.
Who may request records?
Must a purpose be stated?
- See also: States requiring a statement of purpose
Nothing in the Ohio law requires a statement of purpose. In fact records requests need not even be submitted in writing and can be made anonymously.
How can records be used?
- See also: Record use restrictions
According to statute, there are no restrictions to the use of records, nor can intended use play a role in denying a request.
Time allowed for response
- See also: Request response times by state
The Ohio law does not specify a time limit on open records requests.
Fees for records
- See also: How much do public records cost?
Ohio law allows for individuals to choose the method and medium in which they would like to receive their requested record. The department can charge fees to cover the cost of producing the record based on their request.
- See also: Sunshine laws and search fees
Ohio law does not elaborate on whether fees may be charged for the labor of searching for and compiling documents.
Role of the Attorney General
- See also: Role of the Attorney General
The State Attorney General's Office serves as a means for both public officials and citizens to understand their rights and responsibilities under the state's sunshine laws. In addition to providing free training for individuals interested in the concept of open government, the Attorney General publishes a yearly manual called the Sunshine Book that serves as a guide in helping to answer questions related to the laws. The Ohio Public Records Act states that "a person who believes that the Act has been violated must independently pursue a remedy, rather than asking a public official such as the Ohio Attorney General to initiate legal action on his or her behalf."
Ohio government websites
- See also: Evaluation of Ohio county websites
- Ohio FOIA procedures
- Ohio transparency advocates
- Ohio transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Ohio
- Ohio Open Meetings Law
- Ohio Revised Code Chapter 149.43, Public Records
- Open Government Guide to Ohio
- Ohio Open Records Act, Buckeye Institute
- Past articles on Ohio
- Cleveland Law Library Public Records FAQ
- 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- Open Government Guide to Ohio's open records law
- Ohio ORL149.43.E.2
- Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- Ohio Code 149
- ORC § 101.30
- Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)
- Ohio Revised Code 149.43.B.4
- Ohio Revised Code 149.43.B.4
- Ohio ORL149.43.B.1
State of Ohio
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