Public Records Policy
The State of Ohio views public records as the people’s records, and Butler Township as the custodian of the people’s records. Under Ohio law, public records belong to the citizens of this State, and they are entitled to access them under Ohio’s Public Record Act (Sunshine Laws). For this reason, it is the policy of Butler Township to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Record Act.
Ohio Revised Code §149.43 defines a public record as a “record” kept by any public office. A “record” is any item that:
Contains information stored on a fixed medium – paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format; and
Is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office; and
Documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Township.
All records of Butler Township are public, unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code or a specific provision of either state or federal law prohibits their release. As required by Ohio law, records, including e-mail, will be organized and maintained so they are readily available for inspection and copying.
B. Ohio Sunshine Law:
The Ohio Sunshine laws: An open Government Resource Manual is an overview of statues and case law prepared by the Ohio Attorney General’s office that can be used as a guide regarding the application of the public record law. This manual can be accessed on the Attorney General’s website.
C. Maintenance and Security:
The Township’s administrator is responsible for maintaining the security of Township files, ensuring compliance with Ohio’s public record law, and disposing of documents in accordance with the Schedule of Record Retention and Disposition.
D. Electronic Records:
Documents in electronic mail format are records, as defined by the Ohio Revised Code, when their content relates to the business of the Township. E-mail will be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
E. Public Records Request:
Individuals wanting to make a Public Records Request will be asked to complete form RC100 in an effort to provide the record in a timely fashion. The requester does not have to complete the form, provide his identity, or advise of the intended use of the requested public record. The Township will not limit or condition the availability of the public record by requiring disclosure of this information. Although the public record law requires no specific language to make a request, the requester must at least identify the public records he is requesting with sufficient clarity to allow the Township to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records the requester is seeking, the Township must ask the requester for clarification and should assist in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the Township keeps its records.
The Township will evaluate each public record request to estimate the length of time required to gather the records. If feasible to do so, the Township will immediately satisfy routine requests. If the request is deemed significantly beyond routine, such as seeking a voluminous number of copies or requiring extensive research, the acknowledgement must include the following:
- An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request.
- An estimated cost, if copies are requested.
- Any items within the request that may be exempt from disclosure.
If the Township has a records request that is questionable as to the nature of the records, they will seek an opinion from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office before making a determination on releasing the records.
A public records request from a person who is incarcerated pursuant to a criminal conviction or juvenile adjudication normally requires permission from the Judge or court who sentenced the requester before the Township can release the record.
Public records are available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays, and are available for prompt inspection. The Township will make available, within a reasonable time period, copies of public records. “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 requested records. The Township will permit a requester to choose to have a public record reproduced on paper, on the same medium in which it is kept, or on any other medium that can reasonably be duplicated.
If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the Township will redact the exempt portions and release the rest. If there are redactions, the Township will accompany each redaction with a supporting explanation, including legal authority. All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense. According to Ohio law, the requester seeking a copy of the public record has no right to make his own copies. If a public records request is denied, the Township will complete a Completed Public Records form RC 101 setting forth why the Township is denying the request and provide a copy of the completed form to the requester.
H. Failure to Respond:
Butler Township recognizes the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to respond properly to a public records request. In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, failure to comply with a request may result in a court ordering the Township to comply with the law and to pay attorney’s fees and damages to the requester.
Butler Township charges those seeking public records with only the actual cost of duplicating the public record, including the actual cost the Township pays to private contractors for duplicating or mailing services, if required. The Township may require payment in advance for the cost involved in providing the copy of the public record. Requesters may ask that documents be sent to them by mail or by other means of delivery or transmission. The Township may require the requester to pay in advance the cost of postage or other supplies used in the mailing, deliver, or transmission.