Public Records Policy & Requests
PUBLIC RECORDS POLICY
The Union County Auditor will make public records available in accordance with this Public Records policy which has been developed in accordance with Ohio's Public Records laws.
SECTION 1 PUBLIC RECORDS
In accordance with the Ohio Revised Code and applicable judicial decisions, records are defined as any item kept by a public office that meets all of the following:
Is stored on a fixed medium (such as paper, electronic – including but not limited to e-mail, and other formats);
Is created or received by or sent under the jurisdiction of a public officer;
Documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the office.If any of these three requirements is absent, the item is not a “record” and therefore not a public record.
Section 1.1 Public Record Availability
As required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Record retention schedules are to be updated, as needed, and readily available to the public. Public records are to be open to the public at all reasonable times with exception only as provided for in the law.
Section 1.2 Exemptions to Public Records Law
Generally, the confidential nature of certain types of information or records precludes their release. Federal and state law provides numerous exceptions to the general rule that disclosure of public records is mandatory. However, most of the exceptions do not, by themselves, prohibit the release of the prescribed records. Rather, these records merely are excluded from the general rule of mandatory disclosure. In the event a request is made to inspect or obtain a copy of a record maintained by this public office whose release may be prohibited or exempted by either state or federal law, the request shall be forwarded to the County Prosecutor for research and/or review. A listing of those records that are exempted is available upon request.
SECTION 2.0 PUBLIC RECORD REQUESTS
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:
Section 2.1 Identification of Public Record
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarify to allow the Auditor or her designee to identify, retrieve and review the records. The Auditor’s staff will assist the requester by informing him or her of the manner in which records are kept and accessed in the ordinary course of business. The requester shall be allowed to revise the request to clarify it as necessary.
Section 2.2 Format of Request
The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. However, if the Auditor or her designee informs the requester that they may decline to answer either or both questions, the Auditor or her designee may then ask for the requester’s identity and the intended use of the information requested in order to enhance the processing of the request.
Section 2.3 Availability of Records
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested, the proximity of the location where the records are stored and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested. Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records.
Section 2.4 Denials
Any denial of public records requested, whether in part or in whole, must include an explanation.
This explanation shall be in writing if the initial request was provided in writing. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the balance released. Each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation.
If a requester makes an ambiguous or overly broad request or has difficulty in making a request for copies or inspection of public records such that this office cannot reasonably identify what public records are being requested:
This public office may deny the request.
This public office shall provide the requester with an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained in the ordinary course of business.
SECTION 3.0 COSTS FOR PUBLIC RECORDS
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making or transmitting copies. See attached cost sheet.
Section 3.1 Reproduction Costs
The cost of record reproduction will vary upon the size, type and format of the items to be reproduced. The requester may choose to have the public record duplicated:
on the same medium which the reord is kept, or
on any other medium which the record can be reasonably duplicated, as long as the requested method and medium are an integral part of the normal operations of the Auditor's office.
The Auditor may require the requester to pay in advance for the cost involved in reproducing or generating copies of public records.
Section 3.2 Delivery of Records
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them by US mail or by any other means of delivery or transmission. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage, mailing supplies, delivery or transmission. The Auditor may require the requester to pay in advance the cost of postage, mailing supplies, delivery or transmission fees.
SECTION 4.0 ELECTRONIC MAIL (e-mail)
Electronic mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
Section 4.1 Private e-mail accounts
Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business on public property (i.e. county-owned computer), may be subject to disclosure and must be retained per established schedules and made available for public inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act.