Open records mediation is positive step
For the first time in many years the state of Ohio is taking some much-needed steps to keep the “public” in its public records.
Nearly every newspaper and many citizens have hit the proverbial brick wall at some point or another when seeking documents that are clearly defined as public records under the Ohio Revised Code. Individuals working in government offices either do not realize what is public or they simply won’t release the records in an acceptable manner.
Public records audits conducted across Ohio in the past have shown the state has significant weaknesses in its system and records were denied nearly half the time, at least initially.
A new mediation program instituted by Attorney General Mike DeWine could go a long way toward addressing this problem and ensuring that citizens and the media have access to information that is public.
Currently the only avenue to take when a government agency — including county and city governments, township boards of trustees, school boards and village councils — denies a records request is to take legal action, a lengthy and costly proposition. DeWine’s free program simply requires individuals to fill out a form detailing the records sought.
It isn’t perfect as it requires both parties to agree to the mediation but should still be a faster and cheaper solution for everyone involved.
This program should benefit newspapers and, by extension, it will benefit citizens. Hopefully it will also send the message that the light will continue to shine on government across Ohio.