State Auditors found 321 public records violations in 2017, including 3 in Marion County

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 today 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 Marion County, the Marion County Park District and Multi-County Correctional Center were both cited for violating the “availability of public records and policies.” The Village of Caledonia was cited for not completing public records training.

In the counties surrounding Marion, 24 entities were also cited.

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.

A spreadsheet of all public records citations from 2017 is available here.

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

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