INTRODUCTION TO PUBLIC RECORDS
It is the policy of the Mason Municipal Court that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better administration of justice. It is the policy of this Court to strictly adhere to the State’s Public Records Act and the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio. All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense and any denial of public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. If the request for public records is in writing, the explanation of denial must also be in writing.
Section 1. Definition
This Court, in accordance with the Sup. R. 26(B)(6), defines records as any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of a court that serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the court. All records of this Office are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code or the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio.
Section 1.1 Organization and Maintenance
It is the policy of this Court that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying (See Section 4 for the e-mail record policy). Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and posted prominently.
PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS & RESPONSES
Section 2. Evaluation of a Public Records Request
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:
Section 2.1 Identification of Public Records Requested
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least 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 sought, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the office keeps its records.
Section 2.2 Method of Public Records Request and Identity of Requestor
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. It is this Court’s general policy that this information is not to be requested.
Section 2.3 Availability of Public Records for Inspection and Production of Copies
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.
Section 2.4 Time Constraints for Satisfying Public Records Requests
Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records. If feasible, routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, etc. If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be e-mailed or downloaded easily, these should be made as quickly as the equipment allows.
All requests for public records must either be satisfied or be acknowledged in writing by a public office within three business days following the office’s receipt of the request.
Section 2.5 Denial of Public Records Requests
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
COSTS FOR OBTAINING COPIES OF PUBLIC RECORDS
Section 3. Charges for Copies and Postage
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies, as follows:
Section 3.1 The charge for paper copies is 5 cents per page.
Section 3.2 The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc is $1 per disc.
Section 3.3 There is no charge for documents e-mailed.
Section 3.4 Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.
E-MAIL AS PUBLIC RECORDS
Section 4. Definition of E-mail as Public Records
Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. E-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 Holding Public Records
Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all employees or representatives of this Court are instructed to retain their e-mails that relate to public business (see Section 1 Public Records) and to copy them to their business e-mail accounts and/or to the Court’s records custodian.
Section 4.2 Duties of the Records Custodian in Managing Private Account E-mails
The records custodian is to treat the e-mails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act.
FAILURE TO RESPOND TO A PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST
Section 5. Legal and Non-Legal Consequences
A public office recognizes the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request. In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, failure to comply may also result in a court ordering the public office to comply with the law and to pay the requester’s attorney’s fees and damages.
RECORD RETENTION SCHEDULE
Section 6. Supreme Court of Ohio Records Retention Schedules Adopted by this Court
The court hereby adopts Sup. R. 26, 26.01, and 26.05, copies of which are attached, as the current records retention schedules for the Mason Municipal Court.