Sunshine week also highlights the roadblocks people often face when trying to get a record. The Associated Press asked governors across the country for records on how businesses and health officials may influence their decision to re-open the economy. AP, as of Sunday, still had not heard from 20 states. Eye on Ohio fought seven months to get data from the Ohio Department of Health on the number of ventilators and hospital beds for Ohio Covid patients.
And these roadblocks apply to citizens. Municipalities may try to take actions that will discourage you from obtaining records you’re entitled to. You may be asked the pay a high fee for documents or fill out a form with your name and other information. You’re not required to do either to access records.
Monica Nieporte, the president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, had this advice for the public. “In requesting public records, do not make the request so broad it sounds like a fishing expedition and will be a burden on the office to comply. If you know what you’re looking for, be as specific as possible and that will expedite the response.”
The Ohio Auditor has a website that lists municipalities that have violated the Sunshine Law. By typing “Montgomery County” in the search bar who you see that 31 of 91 listed entities were “non-compliant” in some way. Among the violations --- holding inappropriate executive sessions, lack of notification to the media, and lack of a public records policy.
The state’s Sunshine Law Manual is available free online. Everyone should have one because remember, this week is not just about journalists.
It’s about you and your right to know.
Ray Marcano is the interim Ideas and Voices Editor for the Dayton Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org