Ohio Open Records Law
The Ohio Open Records Law is contained in Section 149.43 of the Ohio Revised Code. The law describes what records are available, what agencies are coverage, what fees can be charged, who can ask for records, and so on.
The Ohio Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: Ohio FOIA procedures
- See also: Ohio transparency headlines
- Officials improperly use state computers to access records on "Joe the Plumber" 2009-08-04 13:14:43
- Columbus business leaders want spending details for school bond 2009-08-04 12:42:38
- CPS to learn today who wants top job 2009-06-12 18:32:17
- Ohio Man Fined for Open Records Request 2009-10-25 18:52:44
- Ohio Supreme Court disserves the public in yet another records ruling -- editorial 2009-06-12 18:52:37
- Court: Ohio governor largely followed records law 2009-06-12 18:50:17
- Ohio Legislature considers new plan JobsOhio, a new private agency funded by public dollars 2011-03-05 14:20:17
- Taxpayer's Right to Know Act aims to combat JobsOhio 2011-03-05 14:19:47
- Public records won't be as available in Ohio starting July 1 2010-08-25 12:14:24
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Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of lawsuits in Ohio. For more information go the page or go to Ohio sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|Beacon Journal Publishing Co. v. City of Akron||1965|
|State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Krings||2001|
|State ex rel. Fostoria Daily Review Co. v. Fostoria Hospital Association||1988|
|State ex rel. Freedom Communications Inc. v. Elida Community Fire Company||1998|
|State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland||1996|
|State ex rel. Steffen v. Kraft||1993|
|State ex rel. Toledo Blade v. University of Toledo Foundation||1992|
|State ex rel. WBNS TV Inc. v. Dues||2004|
|State ex rel. Warren Newspapers Inc. v. Hutson||1994|
|State of Ohio v. Allen||2005|
|TBC Westlake Inc. v. Hamilton County Board of Revision||1998|
|The Cincinnati Enquirer v. Walter Handy and Malcolm Adcock||2005|
|Wells v. Lewis||1901|
Here is a list of transparency legislation for Ohio in 2011. This list contains a random collection of 15 bills from the state. For the full list please see Ohio transparency legislation.
|House Bill 1||Current Status: (Referred to Finance and Appropriations Committee)||
House Bill 1, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Mike Duffey is the Governor's JobsOhio bill. The bill is quite long and extremely complicated. This bill exempts JobsOhio from being a public agency while allowing it to receive funds from the public. More information about Ohio's laws on private agencies receiving public funding can be found at our Private Agencies, Public Dollars page The bill would also exempt the corporation from the public records and open meetings laws of the state.
|House Bill 103||Current Status: (Awaiting committee assignment in the House)||
House Bill 103, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Kathleen Clyde which would allow persons who fears they are in danger of being physically harmed or threatened may request that their address be made confidential on all state records. Certain circumstances and personnel would still have access to the newly confidential address such as law enforcement officers, judges, and anyone issuing a subpoena. 
|House Bill 113||Current Status: (Referred to State Government Committee)||
House Bill 113, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Matt Lundy which would attempt to reverse the exemptions provided by House Bill 1, Ohio 2011 to JobsOhio. This bill, also known as "The Taxpayer's Right to Know Act" would make the meetings and records of any "governing board of a corporation" that enters into a public-private partnership subject to open meetings and records requirements. A public-private partnership is defined as a contractual relationship between a state agency and a corporation with the intent of the corporation exercising some or all of the agencies powers, functions or duties. 
|House Bill 33||Current Status: (Referred to Judiciary Committee)||
House Bill 33, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Todd Snitchler which would allow federal law enforcement officers to have their residential information redacted from any record made public and their name replaced with initials on general tax forms. 
|House Bill 66||Current Status: (Referred to State Government Committee)||
House Bill 66, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Ross McGregor which would require the state auditor to establish a system for reporting of fraud, misuse and misappropriation of public money by any public office or public official. Once a report was submitted to the auditor it would become public record.
Here are a list of 30 random bills from Ohio from 2010. For a full list, please see Ohio transparency legislation.
Transparency report card
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Ohio 34 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F", and a ranking of 41 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations: Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
The motivating idea behind Ohio's right-to-know laws was expressed by an Ohio court in 1994 when it wrote "public records are the people's records, and officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people."
It is important to note that all government divisions are required to adopt a public records policy and nominate a keeper of the records. They are also required to give a copy of their public records policy to their particular custodian and he or she must sign that they have received it. Further the law requires that "The public office shall create a poster that describes its public records policy and shall post the poster in a conspicuous place in the public office and in all locations where the public office has branch offices" 
All records "kept by any public office" as well as records of both non-profit and for-profit private schools. 
Notable exemptions include but are not limited to:
- medical records
- parole or probation hearings
- adoption, parentage and DNA information
- trial preparation information
- law enforcement investigations
- inmate records
- Department of youth services records
- intellectual property
- donor information
- "Peace officer, parole officer, prosecuting attorney, assistant prosecuting attorney, correctional employee, youth services employee, firefighter, or EMT residential and familial information" 
- hospital trade secrets
- juvenile recreation information
- financial and personal information of individuals applying for financial assistance
However, Ohio law requires departments to separate exempt and non-exempt material in the same source and release the non-exempt material. 
Agencies include all branches of government and any organization that was "established by the constitution and laws of this state for the exercise of any function of state government" as well as all political subdivisions. 
- "Any record used by a court to render a decision is a record subject to R.C. 149.43", according to State ex rel. WBNS TV Inc. v. Dues, a 2004 decision.
- Trial judges are not required under the law to release personal notes taken about cases over which they are presiding, according to the 1993 decision in State ex rel. Steffen v. Kraft.
- In 1998, a court said the report of an attorney-examiner to a county Board of Tax Appeals is exempt from disclosure because a Board of Tax Appeals is a "quasi-judicial body" which is entitled to the deliberative privacy of the courts: TBC Westlake Inc. v. Hamilton County Board of Revision.
- Documents of the state legislature that are exempted from disclosure include:
- Documents that are not filed with the clerk of the General Assembly.
- Documents that communicate between legislative staff and a member of the General Assembly. 
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland that the doctrine of separation of powers may mean that Ohio's sunshine law does not apply to the records of the state's constitutional officers (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, and Attorney General).
Ohio's definition of public body within the Open Records Law is fairly expansive and contains four distinct instances where private entities could be considered public bodies.
- If the private agency receives public funds.
- If an agency performs a public function and receives funds.
- If an agency performs a public function and is controlled by a public entity.
- If an agency was created by a public body and performs a public function.
- In State ex rel. Toledo Blade v. University of Toledo Foundation, a 1992 decision, a court ruled that records of donors to a private corporation that functioned as the fundraising arm of a state university should be public.
- In State ex rel. Fostoria Daily Review Co. v. Fostoria Hospital Association, a 1988 decision, a court ruled that the minutes of meetings of the board of trustees of a nonprofit corporation operating a municipal hospital should be public.
- In State ex rel. Plain Dealer v. Cleveland, a court ruled that resumes received by a private executive search firm hired by the city of Cleveland to find candidates for city police chief should be public.
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material, intellectual property and donor information are explicitly exempted under Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1.
Nothing in the Ohio law requires a statement of purpose. In fact records requests need not even be submitted in writing and can be made anonymously. 
According to statute, there are no restrictions to the use of records nor can intended use play a role in denying a request. 
The Ohio law does not specify a time limit on open records request.
Fees for records
Ohio law allows for individuals to choose the method and medium in which they would like to receive their requested record. The department can charge fees to cover the cost of producing the record based on their request.
Ohio law does not elaborate on whether or not fees may be charged for the labor of searching for and compiling documents.
The State Attorney General's Office serves as a means for both public officials and citizens to understand their rights and responsibilities under the state's sunshine laws. In addition to providing free training for individuals interested in the concept of open government, the Attorney General publishes a yearly manual called the Sunshine Book that serves as a guide in helping to answer questions related to the laws. The Ohio Public Records Act states that if "a person who believes that the Act has been violated must independently pursue a remedy, rather than asking a public official such as the Ohio Attorney General to initiate legal action on his or her behalf."
Ohio government websites
- Main article: Evaluation of Ohio county websites
- Ohio FOIA procedures
- Ohio transparency headlines
- Ohio transparency advocates
- Ohio transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-Ohio
- Ohio Open Meetings Law
- Ohio Revised Code Chapter 149.43, Public Records
- Open Government Guide to Ohio
- Ohio Open Records Act, Buckeye Institute
- Past articles on Ohio
- Cleveland Law Library Public Records FAQ
- ↑ 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- ↑ States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- ↑ Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- ↑ Open Government Guide to Ohio's open records law
- ↑ Ohio ORL149.43.E.2
- ↑ Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- ↑ Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- ↑ 149.43.B.1
- ↑ Ohio Code 149
- ↑ ORC § 101.30
- ↑ Private agency, public dollars-Ohio
- ↑ Intellectual property at: Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- ↑ Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- ↑ Ohio ORL 149.43.A.1
- ↑ Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)
- ↑ Ohio Revised Code 149.43.B.4
- ↑ Ohio Revised Code 149.43.B.4
- ↑ Ohio ORL149.43.B.1
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