Ohio public records training now online

From The Marion Star Can I get a copy of a crash report? When can my school board discuss business in secret? Those questions and others will be answered in three hours of public records training, which is now available online.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Monday that three hours of training on which records are open to the public is now available on his website, sunshinelaw.ohioattorneygeneral.gov. The training, which is required of elected officials or a representative from their staff, is divided into 13 video lessons.

The training was recorded from live sessions that occurred this year. Across Ohio, about 1,200 people attended these sessions in 2014. However, many others couldn't carve out the time.

"It can be difficult, at times, to make the training in person," Matthew DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association, said at a news conference.

DeTemple said trustees often work full-time jobs and might not be free to attend a session in Columbus. By putting the classes online, more township officials will be able to comply with their obligation to be trained in public records laws.

The online lessons have quizzes. Those who finish all 13 lessons will receive a certificate of completion, DeWine said. Attorneys can use the online training for three hours of continuing legal education.

"Ohio sunshine laws allow citizens to be knowledgeable about how their government works, and they help keep all levels of government accountable," DeWine said at the news conference.

Many of the public records disputes sent to the attorney general's mediation program, which helps resolve record disputes with local government officials and residents, could have been resolved with a better understanding of the law, he added.

Dennis Hetzel, president of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government, said the online courses were a good supplement to the in-person training.

"This continues the efforts the attorney general's office has made to move the ball down the field a bit in terms of making this information accessible," Hetzel said.


How do I access online public records training?

Go to sunshinelaw.ohioattorneygeneral.gov, register online and watch the sessions. In-person training will continue across Ohio next year.

To use the mediation program, which works out public records disputes with local government officials, fill out a form online or call the public records unit at 888-958-5088.