Ohio lawmakers have come up with a new way to handle public records disputes that arise between people and state government agencies. The Ohio legislature has proposed a public records mediation service to help handle public record appeals from citizens whose requests for government records are delayed or outright denied.
In June, lawmakers passed a Substitute Senate Bill which gives people the right to request a mediator with thee Ohio Court of Claims to decide public records appeals. The mediation option will have a very reasonable $25.00 fee and will allow citizens and government agencies to avoid the expense and hassle of public record lawsuits. The new public records mediation law will take effect on September 28th in Ohio.
Government officials in Ohio hope that the new public records mediation will streamline open records requests and help more citizens obtain government records at the state and local level with less hassle and bureaucracy.
At the moment there is only one legal recourse available to people who are denied government records in Ohio. That single legal option is a mandamus action that is filed through the court system to force the government department to produce the records.
However, lawsuits over public records disputes can cost a lot of money and many people can’t afford a lawyer to handle these legal issues against government departments. As of September 28th, Ohioans will be able to file a formal complaint with their county clerk and pay a $25.00 fee to have their public records issue mediated through the Ohio Court of Claims.
In the event that mediation does not resolve the issue, a special master will review the facts and issue an advisory opinion to the Court of Claims judge. Based on the case and the advisory opinion, the judge is empowered to make a decision that is legally binding regarding the public records request.
The judge’s ruling can be appealed by the losing party. However, the new process is expected to resolve public records disputes faster than before. There are currently 28 other states that allow public records mediation to resolve disputes between government departments and citizens.
The new public records mediation is supported by a number of elected officials in Ohio , including Ohio Auditor Dave Yost and Attorney General Mike DeWine.