Contrary to the belief of many public officials, they work for the average citizen. As citizens, the Ohio Revised Code gives us the right to receive most any document, with some exceptions, from any public body that receives their funding from taxpayers.
The Ohio Revised Code is our source for information on public records and record retention schedules for those public bodies.
149.43 Availability of public records for inspection and copying. http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43
For the budding community activists out there, we wanted to share this latest bit of information we received from the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
We sent the following email to Mr. Mark Altier of the AG’s office:
Dear Mr. Altier:
We have asked a Lake County city for their record retention schedule. They would not supply it to us, and gave us the following reason for not complying:
“The City is currently under audit. Therefore, those schedules that have gone through the “process” are not available. The last audit of the city was 2017.”
We have not heard of that reason before, and we were wondering if this applies to all records while an audit is in process or only for the record retention schedule.
In addition, it is our understanding that all documents that enter a public office are available to the public and must be destroyed only in accordance with the record retention schedule. If there is no record retention schedule then the documents must be held forever. Are we correct?
Here is Mr. Altier’s prompt reply:
I am not aware of any facet of a public audit which would preclude a public body from making its record retention schedule available for inspection or review.
Public records are defined as records which are maintained on a fixed medium; created by or within the possession or control, or under the jurisdiction of a public body; which document the functions, activities, or organization of the public body.
Public bodies [sic] (records) must be kept, maintained, and ultimately disposed of pursuant to the Ohio public records law and the records retention schedule of the public body. There are, of course, many exceptions to or exemptions from the requirement that public records be produced for inspection or that copies of the same be provided.
If a public body does not have a records retention schedule, or a class or category of public records is not included in an existing schedule, the duration during which such items must be maintained is indefinite. (emphasis by LFC)
Our records request was sent to the City of Eastlake…..As we suspected, they were “blowing smoke up our kilt” with their answer that they could not supply their records because they were under an audit by the State of Ohio.
Note to Eastlake officials – It is not nice to try to bamboozle us. We will not go quietly! We will expose you, and all other Lake County political sub-divisions and officials, to the general public, if you will not comply with the laws dealing with public records and Ohio’s Open Meeting Act.
YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WARNED!!!