Publisher says it's time to abolish Ohio's public records laws

From The Highland County Press It’s time that the state of Ohio does away with its archaic public records laws and its so-called Sunshine Laws.

In fact, it is past time.

Let’s face it: You – as voters and taxpayers – do not need to know what your elected office holders are up to. It’s none of your business. Really. Just trust them. They know best.

And with solid Republican majorities across the board – as in the Ohio House, the Ohio Senate, the Ohio governor’s office, the state attorney general’s office, the state auditor’s office, the state treasurer’s office, the secretary of state’s office, and the all-knowing Ohio Supreme Court – why waste this golden opportunity?

The House and Senate ought to co-author a bill to put an end to all of the state’s public records laws. Pronto and forthwith. Get the party on board. Grand and Old as it may – or may not – be.

In fact, the GOP can accomplish this grand scheme without a single Democrat vote. Their gerrymandered majority is that tight.

For more than 20 years, I have written those obligatory newspaper editorials and columns in support of the public’s right to their own information. I’ve written the Sunshine Week columns every March, even though in Ohio the sun doesn’t shine until May or June. (Some places, of course, it never shines.) I have championed the public’s right to their public records for a long, long time. But I was wrong. Public records are none of your business. Period.

Yes, yes, yes. You paid for them. And you paid people to make them available under Ohio law. But, really. Who are we, as members of the taxpaying public, to seek your records? The nerve.

The availability of public records is, of course, a relatively simple concept. Records are kept and maintained by public officials in order that members of the public may have access to said records. The concept is simple; until someone complicates it for no good reason.

Most of the time – if we have honest and competent public officials – our public records are not too difficult to access. (Not that we should ever want to access them. See “the nerve” above.)

It used to work this way: Need to know how much the mayor or the police chief make? Call the city auditor and ask. Curious about the county commissioners’ salary? Ask the county auditor. Want to know how much a public school superintendent or principal earns? Call the district treasurer. Want a listing of public office holders? Call the elections board.

These are simple requests and there’s absolutely no reason to withhold or delay the information.

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