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Published: Tuesday, 7/30/2013

OHIO SUPREME COURT

Toledo files appeal over release of gang map

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Bell administration Tuesday filed a notice of appeal of a court ruling in The Blade’s favor that ordered the city of Toledo to release a police department gang-turf map.

A city lawyer filed the notice with the Ohio Supreme Court after an attempt to get more time was struck down.

The Bell administration had asked the 6th District Court of Appeals for more time to file its appeal regarding the court’s 2-1 decision dated July 12 that ordered the city to release the map to The Blade within 10 days. The court ruled against the city Tuesday and denied the motion seeking more time.

Adam Loukx, the city’s law director, declined to comment Tuesday night.

The appellate court in Toledo concluded the gang map was not exempt from disclosure under Ohio public-records law and ordered the city to turn it over within 10 days. The 10 days expired July 22 — the same day the city filed its motion for an extension.

In his motion, Mr. Loukx said he did not have enough time to write an appeal and that Ohio law allows 45 days to file an appeal. He pointed out in the court record that he was on paternity leave from July 11 to July 22.

City Council was briefed on the appeal during a closed-doors session Tuesday.

During council’s agenda review meeting, Councilman Joe McNamara, a candidate for mayor, tried to introduce a resolution urging Mayor Bell to drop the appeal on The Blade gang-map lawsuit. Mr. Loukx interjected by asking council to meet in executive session, which lasted 40 minutes.

Mr. McNamara’s resolution became a moot issue after council was informed during the private session that the appeal had already been filed.

The Toledo Police Department had refused the newspaper’s July, 2012, request for a copy of the map on the grounds that the map “is a confidential law-enforcement investigatory record,” protected under state law, the release of which could interfere with investigatory efforts and thus is protected under the state law.

Under Ohio public-records law, confidential law-enforcement investigatory records are exempt from disclosure. But in this case, the court held that the gang map did not reveal any protected investigatory technique or procedure, and it was not created as a work product for a pending or highly probable criminal prosecution.

The court relied heavily on testimony from Toledo police Officer William Noon, a member of the department’s Gang Task Force, who said he created the map based on information from confidential informants, surveillance, crime reports, field interviews, and other investigative work.

“Other than revealing that the police department knows where the gangs operate, Officer Noon stated that nothing on the map identifies any location that the Toledo Police Department is surveilling,” stated the opinion written by Judge Mark Pietrykowski. “Accordingly, it is undisputed from the record that release of the map would not reveal any specific confidential investigatory technique or procedure.”

In late April, The Blade published its own gang map, created with the assistance of active and former gang members, as part of a four-day series of stories.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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