From The Marietta Times Since 1954, meetings held by any government agency, elected board or appointed commission have been open to the public across Ohio.
Then in 1963 those entities’ records were required by the state legislature to be available upon request to the public.
But in the more than 50 years since those “sunshine laws” were passed, the way society communicates, records and stores information has evolved at an accelerating rate.
“It’s not even just emails and basic browsing on your desktop anymore,” said Jon Grimm, vice president of Grimm Scientific in Marietta. “People are more and more looking information up on their phones and expecting to find everything they need from forms to calendars to paying their bills online.”
Nowadays, Internet databases, email communication and online calendars have become second nature to many as a tool for research and monitoring of public movement.
But there is only one public record required to be made available online in the state.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, sex offender records must be posted on a public website without waiting for an individual public records request.
“How often we update depends upon when a registration status changes or when new offenders move into the area, it’s on an as-needed basis,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. “And we do send an officer out every one to two months to confirm their addresses. If they don’t register with us or register a change of address we do charge them.”
Parents of minors especially utilize the site.
“I have checked twice in the past for my neighborhood and another neighborhood where my child and other children I care about have spent time,” said Amy Elliot, of Marietta. “There were a couple that I was worried about and wanted to make sure I knew their descriptions.”
Likewise Susie Evans, of Marietta, was concerned when she had heard that a convicted sex offender had moved into her neighborhood.
“I heard that one had moved into my neighborhood and I wanted to make sure I knew where for the safety of my kids,” she said.
Though the sex offender data is the only required public record outlined by the ORC to be made available online, the ORC also notes that county auditors’ websites may be seen as fulfilling the public records request law.
By posting maps, reports, forms, delinquent taxpayer lists, property ownership data, a levy calculator, property transfer procedures, previous tax rates and unclaimed funds, Washington County Deputy Auditor Matthew Livengood said the office utilizes the Internet to provide public access to information.