Friday, April 11, 2008

FOIA Friday - April 11th

Another in a series of Friday posts on your Freedom of Information (Act) - the best way to gather data on what government is doing, and then hold it accountable. Remember - they work for you, not the other way around!

Ohio's revised public records law (ORC 149.43) took effect in September of 2007. Part of the new rules for government was that each government entity had to develop and post their public records policy. Such policy had to be conspicuously posted in all offices where members of the public might come for access to public documents.

Last January, I stopped in various public offices in Government Center and found that all the county offices had their policy readily available and easy to access and read. The city, however, did not. I've not checked back to see if they've since complied with the law, but their public records policy is available here.

When deciding to make a request for public records, it's best to read the jurisdiction's policy so you know what to expect.

Also remember, many jurisdictions ask you to fill out a form when making a public records request. Even though the form may ask for your name and/or contact information, you do not have to give it and may, under the law, leave those areas blank. You also do not have to explain why you want the information. The government entity cannot refuse your request if you fail to provide that information.

Finally, you have the right to inspect records during normal business hours. I would recommend that you ask to inspect the public records you are seeking, rather than ask for copies, first. This way, you can see the details of the records and then request copies of the ones most pertinent to your request. Sometimes, if you leave the decision of what to copy up to the government, they'll copy everything in an attempt to be thorough and then present you with a huge pile of papers - and a huge bill.

If there's something about a government entity that you've always wanted to know, now is the time to ask. And you can post about your experience here, so all of us can help hold our government accountable.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

You know as well as I do that the gubment can (and will) do as they damned well please and will force you into court.

They will, of course, lose, but they will make you do it every time that they can.

In this case the courts can be willing co-conspirators as they never seem to slap the gubment hard enough for them learn from their blatant stubbornness...

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