321 citations issued for public records violations in 2017


Eight local government entities cited

Staff Report



COLUMBUS — State auditors issued 321 public records-related citations to 267 public entities in calendar year 2017 — a 22 percent drop in citations from the prior year, Auditor of State Dave Yost announced as part of Sunshine Week, a nationwide initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of open government and public records.

In all, about 5.5 percent of the 4,803 financial audits issued in 2017 included citations for noncompliance with public records-related requirements. The prior year, 8 percent of the 4,446 audits released included noncompliance citations.

The majority of citations stemmed from officials neglecting to attend state-required public records trainings, entities lacking public records policies or a failure to make the policy readily available to employees and the general public. Auditors routinely review public records practices during audits.

In Meigs County, Letart Township and Salisbury Township were both cited for the availability of public records and the policies related to public records. Meigs County was cited for public records training requirements.

According the report from the Auditor’s office, the violations were as follows:

Letart Township — The township did not have a records retention policy in place or a records retention schedule.

Meigs County — The engineer and coroner did not attend the required training during their terms nor did they designated someone to attend on their behalf. The commissioners designated the grant coordinator but did not document this in the minutes.

Salisbury Township — The township did not have a records retention policy nor a records retention schedule available to the public.

In Gallia County, Greenfield Township, Guyan Township, Morgan Township and the village of Centerville were cited for the availability of public records and the policies related to public records. The village of Vinton was cited for public records training requirements.

According the report from the Auditor’s office, the violations were as follows:

Greenfield Township — The Board of Trustees did not have a public records policy or a records retention policy in place.

Guyan Township — The township has implemented a records retention schedule. However, the schedule does not include the required policy for contacting the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office for final approval.

Morgan Township — The township did not have a public records policy in place.

Village of Centerville — The village did not have a public records policy or records retention policy in place. In addition, elected officials have not attended Ohio public records laws training during their terms of office or designated another member of management to attend.

Village of Vinton — The villages’ elected officials have not attended Ohio public records laws training during their terms of office or designated another member of management to attend.

In 2016, there were 414 citations issued to 357 entities by state auditors for public records-related matters, meaning citations decreased by more than 22 percent in 2017.

“I can understand a bookkeeping error — mistakes happen,” Auditor Yost said. “But there’s no justification for violating the clear law of public records.”

“Message to public officials: These are not your records. Do whatever it takes to comply with this law: Put up a sign. Post it on social media,” Yost said. “These are public records, and it is the law.”

While townships represented 13.7 percent of the 4,803 reports released in 2017, they represented 27.4 percent of the public record citations. Similarly, villages represented 7.8 percent of reports, but were responsible for 29.2 percent of citations. The entities most cited:

· Townships — 13.7 percent of all reports released; 27 percent of all entities cited

· Villages — 7.8 percent of all reports released; 29 percent of all entities cited

· Police/Fire/EMS & Ambulance districts — 1.4 percent of all reports released; 7 percent of all entities cited

· Cities — 6 percent of all reports released; 6.5 percent of all entities cited

· School Districts — 16.7 percent of all reports released; 5 percent of all entities cited

· Counties — 2 percent of all reports released; 4.7 percent of all entities cited

· Community Schools — 7.6 percent of all reports released; 4 percent of all entities cited

Both the Ohio Auditor’s office and the Office of the Ohio Attorney General offer public records trainings to public employees. More information about compliance requirements for Ohio’s public records laws is included in Auditor of State Bulletin 2011-006.

Sunshine Week runs from March 11-17 and occurs every mid-March, coinciding with the National Freedom of Information Day on March 16.

Sentinel managing editor Sarah Hawley contributed to this report.

Eight local government entities cited

Staff Report

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