By Dennis Hetzel, OCOG President Starting on Sept. 28, the ONA-backed bill to give Ohioans a low-cost, quick process to appeal the denial of a public records request will go into effect.
Earlier this week, we had a good meeting with Ohio Court of Claims officials. For a $25 filing fee, you will be able to appeal a denial and have a binding ruling in 60 days or less in many situations. You’ll be able to file at your local courthouse or online through the Court of Claims website. What’s more, all the filings and related documents that are open records will be available online as well.
As ONA members, you’re encouraged to take advantage of this process, and we will want feedback from our newsrooms on how the process is working. As I told The Columbus Dispatch this week, if it works as intended, Ohio will have a process that could be a national model. But, this is novel and brand new; tweaks may be needed. Hopefully there won’t be serious problems. (We’re already working on suggestions to improve the law.)
The ACLU of Ohio already has updated their excellent guide to Ohio’s laws to explain the new appeals process as well as the existing law, which continues. You still have the option to go directly to court, though the hope is that many cases, certainly the more routine ones, will be settled in the Court of Claims. A link to their guide is below. Every newsroom should make this available, as it is close to identical to what the ONA would do if we did one ourselves.
Note that the attorney general and state auditor will be eliminating their open records appeals programs as this new law takes effect.
We will be communicating more on this new process as the date gets closer. ONA General Counsel Mike Farrell and I also will include details on the process in a free webinar on latest developments in Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. Coincidentally, that webinar will be on Sept. 28, at 10 a.m., and registration will open soon.
Click here for the ACLU’s downloadable guide to Ohio open meetings and public records.