Report: 267 Ohio public entities were issued 321 citations in 2017 for violating public records laws
The Ohio Auditor of State recently released a report that shows that 267 Ohio public entities were cited for violating public records laws in 2017, which is a decrease from last year’s numbers.
In early March, Dave Yost, the Ohio Auditor of State, issued a report on the number of public records-related citations among governments, Marion Online reports. The report was released to coincide with the beginning of National Sunshine Week, which annually celebrates freedom of public information.
The 321 citations for 267 Ohio public entities marks a decrease from the 414 citations issued to 357 public entities in 2016, Cleveland.com reports.
“I can understand a bookkeeping error — mistakes happen — but there’s no justification for violating the clear law of public records,” Yost said in a news release.
Ohio law states that public officials must receive three hours of public records training through the auditor or attorney general during their term, according to Cleveland.com.
Villages (29 percent) and townships (27 percent) represented the public entities that were most cited for public records law violations, according to Marion Online. When governments are cited for violating public records law, no penalty is given or investigation made — the citations generally serve as warnings moving forward.
One city that received a citation for public records training was Girard, Ohio, The Vindicator reports. The citation said that numerous elected officials didn’t attend required public records training. But Mayor James Melfi said that he wouldn’t have attended the training even if he’d been aware of the requirement.
“As far as missing training, I didn’t even know about it. So that’s fine,” Melfi told The Vindicator. “Maybe they should use that training for those who may be breaking the law… Maybe we don’t need the training. Maybe I have other important things to do, like public services.”
In a news release, Yost was unapologetic about the report’s findings.
“Message to public officials: These are not your records," Yost said in a news release, per Cleveland.com. "These are public records, and it is the law. You need to do whatever it takes to remind yourself to comply. And there's training available to help you."