Ohio auditor's office to rule on public records complaints

From The Columbus Dispatch For the first time, Ohioans can pursue public records complaints against state agencies and public universities without filing costly court cases.

Ohio Auditor Dave Yost announced today the creation of a “Sunshine Audit” program to field complaints about governmental entities failing to turn over public records or violating other provisions of open-records laws.

Yost’s lawyers will determine if violations occurred and, if so, issue non-compliance audit findings against public employees or agencies that potentially could be enforced in court if records still are not made available.

The auditor’s office also will issue findings involving local governments and public and charter schools if those complaints were first heard by, and not resolved, by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s public-records mediation program.

“Lawsuits cost too much, take too long and are not a realistic option for the average citizen,” Yost said at a news conference outside the Statehouse.

“It’s fundamentally wrong we can have a situation in Ohio where government can stonewall” the release of records and escape accountability unless Ohioans can afford tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to pursue a lawsuit, Yost said.

Yost said he has no authority to enforce the findings of a “Sunshine Audit,” but that his office’s audits have the legal presumption of validity and would allow a person to ask a judge to order their enforcement to obtain records.

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