Some records relating to former county executive Edward FitzGerald ordered released

From Ohio Court News The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that nine incident reports relating to former Cuyahoga County Executive Edward FitzGerald from May 2012 to August 2014 are public records and must be released to the requestor.

In a unanimous per curiam opinion, the Court held that the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office incorrectly determined the reports were “security records” that were exempt from the Ohio Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43.

Case Begins with Former Sheriff Mark W. Miller requested that Cuyahoga County Sheriff Frank Bova provide him with “all offense or incident reports in the possession, custody or control” of the sheriff’s office in which FitzGerald was identified as “the reportee, complainant, or victim.”

Judy Blatnik, the sheriff’s public records manager, denied the request asserting the records were security records and not subject to disclosure.

Miller then filed an action in the Court against Bova and Blatnik seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the sheriff’s office to turn over the requested reports. Subsequently, Bova was succeeded by Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, and today’s ruling applies to Pinkney’s office.

Incident Reports Are Public Records The Court explained that incident reports initiate criminal investigations but are not part of the investigation and that routine offense and incident reports are public records and typically subject to immediate release upon request.

The Court further explained that R.C. 149.433(A)(1) defines a security record as “ ‘[a]ny record that contains information directly used for protecting or maintaining the security of a public office against attack, interference, or sabotage’ ” and that a security record is not a public record and is not subject to disclosure pursuant to the Public Records Act.

After conducting an in camera inspection of the records in the possession of the sheriff’s office that are responsive to Miller’s request, the Court determined that among those records are nine incident reports that are not security records and that are subject to release with the redaction of exempt information. The Court therefore granted the writ in part and denied it in part and attached the nine redacted reports to its opinion as an appendix.  The Court also awarded Miller costs and reasonable attorney fees to be determined after he files an itemized application.

2015-0612. State ex rel. Miller v. Pinkney, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-1335.