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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

Seminars to educate citizens, officials on public records law

The Blade, in cooperation with the Ohio Newspaper Association, will sponsor the first of 12 public seminars about the state s public records and open meeting laws at Owens Community College on Aug. 24.

The Sunshine Law sessions are the result of an audit conducted by the Ohio Coalition for Open Government. During the audit, dozens of media representatives including reporters from The Blade approached government officials seeking public records. Half the time, the public officials failed to provide the information as required.

The April audit included representatives from 41 other Ohio newspapers, the Associated Press, two radio stations, and volunteers from two universities in a statewide effort to determine government compliance with the state s Public Records Act.

The seminar is free and open to the public. It will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Owens Center for Fine and Performing Arts. It will feature Ohio attorney general Jim Petro, members of his staff, and Fritz Byers, general counsel for Block Communications Inc., which owns The Blade, and a recognized authority on public records and open meetings laws.

We are sponsoring this seminar so that public officials and the general public will clearly understand their rights and responsibilities under the law, said Ron Royhab, vice president and executive editor of The Blade.

The attorney general s office has asked public officials to attend the seminars.

Public officials who attend these forums will take positive steps toward refreshing their knowledge and understanding of their role in facilitating the public s open access to its government, Mr. Petro said.

Other sessions are scheduled in Canton, on Sept. 13; Youngstown, on Sept. 22; Shelby, on Oct. 7; Cleveland, on Oct. 18; Cincinnati, on Oct. 27; Dayton, on Nov. 16; Columbus, on Nov. 17; Lima, on Dec. 8; and Chilicothe, on Jan. 20. Sites for two other forums in February are yet to be determined.

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