The public’s right to Ohio government records is set out in the Ohio Public Records Act, which can be found in the Ohio Revised Code Section 149.43
A public record is something that documents the organization, policies, functions, decisions, procedures or other activities of a public office. Public records include:
The public has the right to prompt inspection of public records and the right to copies within a reasonable period of time. The public office can charge no more than the cost of copying the documents.
The Act also protects records that disclose the configuration of certain aspects of public buildings, such as electrical, ventilation and water systems and security codes. Security records used to protect a public building against attack or sabotage are also protected.
Many other records are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act and may be disclosed only with a court order. These records include:
The Ohio Sunshine Law Update, an annual publication of The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, contains a comprehensive review of what records are available to the public under the Ohio Public Records Act.
The FOIA does not provide access to records held by Congress or the federal courts, by state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. All states have their own statutes governing public access to state and local government records. Click here for more information about FOIA and how to make a FOIA request.
Public bodies must take official action and conduct deliberations on official business in meetings that are open to the public. This includes:
Some public bodies are exempt from the Open Meetings Act such as grand juries, and the Adult Parole Authority. Also, most public bodies may meet in private by meeting in executive session, but they can only discuss certain things in these sessions, such as personnel issues, purchasing property, pending litigation, collective bargaining security arrangements, trade secrets, and other information that must be kept confidential by state or federal law.
The Ohio Sunshine Law Update an annual publication of The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, contains more information about the Ohio Open Meetings Act.
In over 30% of the cases, access to records that should be readily available to the public was denied.
In response, Representative Oelslager sponsored a bill in the House of Representatives to require the Attorney General’s Office to provide training and develop a model public records policy, and to authorize a Public Access Counselor to provide a way to mediate disputes without resorting to litigation, along with other reforms.
Click here for the text of the bill. In 2006 the General Assembly passed legislation to authorize the Attorney General to provide the training along with some other reforms. However, the section providing for a Public Access Counselor was deleted by the Senate.