COLUMBUS — State auditors issued 321 public records-related citations in 2017, with none occurring in Henry County. Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost released the results today as part of Sunshine Week, which is March 11-17 and is a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of open government and public records.
The majority of citations stemmed from officials neglecting to attend state-required public records trainings and entities which did not have public records policies or a failure to make the policy available to employees and the general public.
Henry County Commissioner Glenn Miller said open records, as well as open meetings, are important to the county.
“It’s something that we keep to the forefront,” Miller said. “In the commissioners’ office, and I think the other county offices, we’re cognizant of what we’re required to make available to the public.
“Currently, I can’t think of anything except for personal identifying information and security information ... that are not available,” he continued.
Each elected official is required to attend a training once during their term, and Miller said the county has participated in regional training sessions on open records that are open to county elected officials, as well as township trustees, mayors and village council members from Henry County and surrounding counties.
“Each professional organization, such as the County Commissioners Association of Ohio ... , at their yearly conferences, will hold a session, too,” Miller said, adding those yearly conferences are also good times to learn about recent changes to the Ohio Revised Code related to records. “There’s plenty of opportunities to get that in.”
Miller said if they do receive a public records requests where there is a question or concern, it’s forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office for review. He noted there have been times where they’ve requested the individual seeking the records to narrow the request to a more reasonable time frame or specified issue before the request is fulfilled.
Looking forward, Miller said the commissioners are planning to redesign the county’s website to include more information such as minutes and resolutions from their meetings to increase their availability to the public.
“Those type of things would be made readily available there,” Miller said.
On the state level, Yost reported approximately 5.5 percent of the 4,803 financial audits issued in 2018 included citations for non-compliance with public records-related requirements. That is down from 8 percent in 2016, when 414 citations were issued.
“I can understand a bookkeeping error — mistakes happen,” Yost said in a press release. “But there’s no justification for violating the clear law of public records.
“Message to public officials: These are not your records. These are public records, and it is the law,” Yost continued. “You need to do whatever it takes to remind yourself to comply. And there’s training available to help you.”
The most entities cited included:
•Townships — 13.7 percent of all reports released and 27 percent of all entities cited.
•Villages — 7.8 percent of all reports released and 29 percent of all entities cited.
•Police/fire/EMS and ambulance districts — 1.4 percent of all reports released and 7 percent of all entities cited.
•Cities — 6 percent of all reports released and 6.5 percent of all entities cited.
•School districts — 16.7 percent of all reports released and 5 percent of all entities cited.
•Counties — 2 percent of all reports released and 4.7 percent of all entities cited.
•Community schools — 7.6 percent of all reports released and 4 percent of all entities cited.