Do you want to be in the know about happenings in your state, county, and city? Do you want to know where and how your taxed dollars are spent? Do you want access to certain public records?
“Citizen access to public records is the law of the land in all U.S. states and territories, and in the District of Columbia,” according to The National Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance. The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. The mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings. www.nfoic.org/.
Open Government in Ohio
Ohio Sunshine Laws ensure all citizens are granted the right to have broad access to government records and meetings. The Open Government Unit educates the public and government about the intricacies of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws. Each year, in partnership with the Ohio Attorney General, the Auditor of State publishes Ohio Sunshine Laws, An Open Government Resource Manual (2018 publication has 256 pages).
Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (A) defines a public record as those records kept by any public office. “Public record” does not mean medical records. See website for other limitations of public records. www.codes.ohio.gov/.
The Ohio Public Records Act provides the public with procedures to request records from any public office in Ohio, while protecting certain types of records from release. The Ohio Open Meetings Act requires public officials to deliberate, discuss and conduct the people’s business in open meetings. wwwohioauditor.gov/.
For more information about public records procedures visit the Ohio Court of Claims at www.ohiocourtofclaims.gov/.
Court News Ohio provides an interactive online glossary to help the public understand the legal terms that Ohio courts and lawyers frequently use. www.courtnewsohio.gov/.
Are you interested in Ohio’s spending and expenses? Visit www.ohiotreasurer.gov/Transparency/Ohios-Online-Checkbook.
Do you want to know what your city and county spend on police, fire, debt service, sewage system treatment, water works, health, council payroll, municipal court program funds, general fund, miscellaneous, and other expenses? Visit www.ohiocheckbook.com/.
I’m a card-carrying, but peace-loving, official member of the Ohio Coalition for Open Government (OCOG). Why? “Open government isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue and affects all aspects of the lives of Ohioans.” That’s what Dennis Hetzel, OCOG President declared. And I second that motion.
For 25 years, the Ohio Coalition for Open Government (a tax-exempt corporation established by the Ohio News Media Foundation in June 1992) has been at the forefront for open government issues and access to public records in our state. OCOG serves as a clearinghouse for media and citizen grievances that involve open meetings and open records, and offers guidance to reporters in local government situations. “We work to ensure that the state and local governments in Ohio remain governments of the people, by the people, and for the people.” www.ohioopengov.com/.
Common Cause Ohio is another nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. The members advocate for an open, accountable, and transparent government. The mission is to hold public officials accountable, create a more representative government, and ensure that every vote counts and elections reflect the will of the people. You can join this movement at www.commoncause.org/ohio/our-work/.
Citizens of Ohio need to be informed because knowledge is power.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.