Don't know how to request government records and other information which are supposed to be available to the public under Ohio law? This short primer will help.


Primer on making open government and sunshine law requests in Ohio


If the record exists, the simplest thing to do is to ask for it or to review it at their office. If you don’t request it in person or by certified mail, you will lose any opportunity to collect legal fees if you sue them, but that rarely happens anyway. They are not required to create records that don’t exist. You are not required to identify yourself, but you may wish to do so in order to expedite a response, etc.

If they can make a record open by redacting (blacking out) the exempt information, they have to do that. They also have to cite the specific statutory exemption they are claiming for any denial.

The most common reason for denial in Ohio probably is that the request is "overly broad." It is a good idea to keep your request as narrow as possible by subject, timeframe, etc. Avoid phrases like "all the emails" and "every document." It is better to piecemeal what you want into multiple requests.

An increasingly common denial is based on attorney-client privilege. Just because an attorney "touched" or saw a document is NOT a reason for denial. The attorney must be functioning directly as a lawyer on behalf of the entity.

You can now appeal the denial of access to a public record for a $25 fee and do everything online. The decision has the force of law. The Ohio Court of Claims operates the site, which also has a lot of info.

The Ohio Attorney General Sunshine Law Manual is the “bible” that most government officials follow, or at least claim to … this is extremely useful for someone trying to understand the OH laws in depth.

The Ohio ACLU has a very handy guide to using the Ohio laws & how to frame requests.

And, please consider a small donation or membership with our 501(c)3 Ohio Coalition for Open Government as part of this assistance.