PUBLIC RECORD REQUEST POLICY
PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The City of Akron recognizes its obligations under the Ohio Public Records Act as set forth in Chapter 149 of the Ohio Revised Code regarding public records. Should changes to the law occur that conflict with the provisions of this policy, the law will supersede this policy. It is the policy of the City of Akron that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying.
The term “Records" is defined in R.C. 149.011 (G). as follows: “(G) ‘Records’ includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including an electronic record as defined in section 1306.01of the Revised Code, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.” If a document or other item does not meet all three parts of the definition of a “record”, then it is a non-record and is not subject to either the Ohio Public Records Act or records retention requirements.
The term “Public Record” is defined in R.C. 149.43 (A) (1).
Information contained within a record may be exempt from disclosure under State or federal law or because of privilege or confidentiality requirements. Attorney-work product is not a public record.
"Actual cost" and "commercial" have the same meanings as in Ohio Revised Code §149.43.
"Redaction" is defined in R.C. 149.43(A) (11) and means "obscuring or deleting any information that is exempt from the duty to permit public inspection or copying from an item that otherwise meets the definition of a ‘record’ in section 149.011 of the Revised Code."
"Regular business hours" are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding City holidays.
"Requester" is a person, group, or entity making a public record request.
Each department or division is to appoint an employee to serve as Records Custodian. The Records Custodian has custody of the records of that department or division. The Records Custodian must acknowledge receipt of a copy of this Policy and is responsible for posting this Policy and the City’s Public Records poster in a conspicuous place in each location where the City does business.
The Records Custodian is responsible for contacting the Law Department for legal review of records requests. The Records Custodian is also responsible for reviewing and updating record retention schedules and ensuring that the department or division’s retention schedule is available to the public for review.
Each department or division is also responsible for publishing a copy of this Policy in any manuals or handbooks of general policies and procedures that the department or division puts together for employees.
PROCEDURES FOR RECORD REQUESTS
Public records may be accessed by one of the following methods:
A request to view public records in person;
A request for copies which the requester will personally pick up; or
A request for copies of public records that the requester would like mailed or otherwise delivered to the requester.
The City will only respond to public record requests during regular business hours and not on City holidays. Upon request, except as otherwise provided by law, the City shall provide all public records responsive to a request promptly for inspection. If a public record contains information that is exempt from the duty to permit public inspection or copying, the City shall make available all of the information within the public record that is not exempt. If copies of the public records are requested, the copies will be made within a reasonable time, as required by the Ohio Revised Code. The time for compliance will depend upon the availability of the public records (i.e., the proximity of where the records are stored) and the volume of public records requested. Time will also be allowed for legal review.
Although no specific language is necessary to make a request, the requester must at a minimum identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being requested, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requester in revising the request by informing the requester of the manner in which the office keeps its records.
Requests do not have to be in writing. However, the City requests that public record requests be made in writing, stating who is requesting the information and for what purpose as needed to enhance the City’s ability to identify, locate and deliver the public records to the requester. The requester may decline to make the request in writing or to reveal his or her identity or the intended use of the public records.
The requester may choose to have copies of the public record(s) made on paper, upon the same medium upon which the City keeps it, or upon any medium upon which the City determines that it can reasonably be duplicated as an integral part of the normal operations of the City.
Requests to have public records mailed, delivered or transmitted to a requester are limited to ten (10) per month, unless the requester certifies to the City in writing that the requester does not intend to use or forward the requested records, or the information contained in them, for commercial purposes.
Public records will only be copied by authorized employees. The City may use an outside copying service to make the copies. Under no circumstances will the requester be permitted to make copies him or herself.
Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and will be available to the public upon request.
Documents in electronic format may be public records if they meet the definition of a public record contained in the Ohio Revised Code. Electronic mail is to be treated the same as other records and should follow the same retention schedules. Records in private e-mail accounts that are used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all City employees are to retain their e-mails that relate to public business and to copy them to their business e-mail accounts and/or to the office’s records custodian.
Those seeking public records shall be charged only the actual cost of making copies. Upon request by the City, the requester shall pay in advance the cost of copying the public record(s). Payment shall be in cash or by check. The City will furnish a receipt for payments received.
The charge for paper (standard sized or legal) is five cents per page. Each Division or Department is responsible for determining the actual cost for downloading computer files to a compact disc (CD), copying photographs or maps, cassette tapes and any other media.
The City shall review their actual cost regularly and update this section as needed.
Requesters may ask that copies of public records be mailed to them. The City shall require payment in advance for the actual cost of postage or the cost of delivery and for the actual cost of supplies used in the mailing, delivery or transmission of public records if the requester has requested the public records to be mailed, delivered or transmitted to him/her.
If the City uses an outside copying service to make the copies, the requester will be required to pay the cost of the entire copying job, as billed by the copying service.
DENIAL OF A PUBLIC RECORD REQUEST
Under certain circumstances, records are not defined as "public records" under Ohio law. In these situations, the public record request will be denied on that basis. Ohio law also recognizes certain actions as "denials" of public record requests.
A document that otherwise meets the definition of a "public record" may contain information that is not within the definition of a "public record." In that case, the City will "redact" the portion of the public record that does not meet the definition of a "public record." If a public record contains information that exempt from the duty of to permit public inspection and copying, the City shall make available all information within the public record which is not exempt. When making the public record available for public inspection or copying, the City shall notify the requester of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible. A redaction shall be deemed a denial of a request to inspect or copy the redacted information, except if federal or state law authorizes or requires a public office to make the redaction.
In the event that a request for public records is made from which the City cannot determine what public records the requester is seeking, the City will inform the requester that the public records request is denied but will provide the requester with an opportunity to more accurately describe the public records being requested. If the requester is seeking public records organized in certain way but the public records are not organized that way, the City will inform the requester of the manner in which the public records are maintained and accessed. The requester may then submit another public records request that more accurately reflects the organization of the public records and the actual public records sought by the requester.
The City reserves the right to withhold documents that are subject to recognized privileges and confidentiality requirements or are otherwise exempt from request for review by law.
Ohio law requires that any denial including any redactions, except those which are required by state or federal law, be supported by legal authority. If the public record request was made in writing, a denial must be given in writing. Written reasons for denials will not be issued for non-written public records requests.
Approved by COA Records Commission – 9/28/07
Further, record requests must identify records “with reasonable clarity” and not be “overly broad” but must describe what is being sought “specifically and particularly” in order that the public office can reasonably identity what record is being requested. (See: State ex rel. Glasgow v. Jones, 119 Ohio St. 3d 391.) The Ohio Supreme Court has also ruled that a public office has “no duty under R.C. 149.43 to create new records by searching for and compiling information from existing records.” (See: State ex rel. White v. Goldsberry, 85 Ohio St. 3d 153.)