The records of the new JobsOhio agency created by Gov. John R. Kasich are out of reach of the public. / Enquirer file photo
Paul E. Kostyu reports:
Ohio legislators created an arson offender registry much like the state’s sex offender registry, supposedly to deter the crime. But unlike the older one, the names of those making the arson list will not be public. That means you won’t know if your neighbor is an arsonist.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled recently that asking for the emails sent to and from public officials is too “ambiguous.”
What’s going on?
Those are just two of many examples of how government is becoming more secretive as lawmakers and the courts turn transparent government to opaque in Ohio.
It means you can’t see what your government is doing or where it’s spending your money or what deals are being cut. In fact, some public officials even want you to pay for accessing what are now free online records – such as the deed to your house or your military discharge papers – if you print them in your own home.
Since the state first enacted its public records law (Ohio Revised Code 149.43) in 1963, the number of legal exemptions spelled out in the law has grown from the first one – medical records – to 29, but that doesn’t include hundreds of other exemptions.
Those fall under a catch-all section that says exemptions found in other state and federal laws also apply. One expert on Ohio records law expects the list to grow. But Greg R. Lawson, policy analyst for the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, said he thought access was “probably about the same (as it always has been) or getting a little bit better.”
The latest exemption? The records of the new JobsOhio agency carved by Gov. John R. Kasich from the former Department of Development are out of reach of the public. Ohio’s top court said that’s OK, because JobsOhio is a private entity, whereas the department was a public one.
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