Ohio lawmakers chip away at public records access

From The Columbus Dispatch

Sunshine lawyer Jack Greiner fears Ohio lawmakers may be out to “lap the alphabet twice” when it comes to government secrecy.

In the Ohio Revised Code, exemptions to the state’s public records law are labeled by letter — a, b, c, etc. The most recent exemption — the 31st — is designated (ee) in the law.

Greiner, a Cincinnati lawyer who specializes in open-government cases, fears (aaa) may not be far behind as legislators continue to whittle away at the public’s right to know.

Yet Ohio has a solid public records law compared with many states, said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio News Media Association.

And the state largely has avoided some of the more-draconian efforts to restrict access to records, as seen in other states, amid fears of identity theft and concerns about privacy, he said.

But the ongoing legislative mindset favoring secrecy over transparency is like death by a thousand paper cuts, Hetzel said.

“Most of the time, what we are seeing are generally well-intentioned efforts to carve out new, sometimes small, new exemptions. But, in the aggregate, it is increasingly hard to manage a law with an ever-growing list of exemptions,” Hetzel said.

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