Crawford, Scioto, Montgomery, and Greene counties were among the worst offenders in pockets of the state where participants in an Ohiowide public-records audit were denied public information from local government agencies.
In April, journalists from numerous news outlets tested Ohio’s public-records laws by requesting to inspect the same set of city, county, school district, and police records from local governments in each of the state’s counties.
The audit, sponsored by the Ohio Newspaper Association’s Ohio Coalition for Open Government, revealed record-seekers may run into trouble, especially when seeking financial or salary information about public employees.
In Bucyrus, the county seat of Crawford County, an auditor’s request to review the city budget document listing the police chief’s salary and the mayor’s most recent expense report went unfilled. An employee asked for the record requester’s email to send the records electronically, but the requester hadn’t received them by the end of the week.
Similarly, at Colonel Crawford Local Schools in Crawford County, record requests for the superintendent’s salary and the treasurer’s most recent expense reimbursement form were promised to be sent but not received that week, according to the auditor.
In Dayton in Montgomery County, the auditor failed to receive records that week. The record keeper told the auditor she was busy working someone else’s job while that person was out.
“She was very helpful and courteous, but said she would likely not be able to get to the request within a few days. She requested my email address to send them to me at a later date,” the auditor reported.
At Dayton Public Schools, the auditor was asked why she wanted to inspect the document listing the superintendent’s salary and the treasurer’s most recent expense reimbursement form. The auditor was eventually told it would take several days to gather the information, left an email address, but did not receive a response that week.
An auditor also did not obtain requested financial and salary records from the city of Portsmouth in Scioto County or Portsmouth schools within the week.
At Xenia Community Schools in Greene County, an auditor was told by a woman behind the secretary’s desk that she didn’t know who in the district had “that kind of information” and didn’t know who to send the auditor to in order to find it.
A records request to review the Xenia Police Department’s incident reports from the shift of officers that most recently filed them was also met with resistance.
Two Toledo requests were not met.
A Toledo police employee told an auditor to request a specific report or else she couldn’t help.
An employee in the Toledo mayor’s office asked the auditor to send an email requesting the records in question, but instead of providing the budget document listing the police chief’s salary, the assistant replied by stating how much the chief is paid.