Public Records Law

Ohio Laws Governing Public Records

This is a selection of relevant laws governing the creation, use, and disposition of Ohio public records prepared in 2005. For the complete current text, see Ohio Online Documents.

ORC 149.011

(A)"Public office" includes any state agency, public institution, political subdivision, or any other organized body, office, agency, institution, or entity established by the laws of this state for the exercise of any function of government.

(B) "State agency" includes every department, bureau, board, commission, office, or other organized body established by the constitution and laws of this state for the exercise of any function of state government, including any state-supported institution of higher education, the general assembly, any legislative agency, any court or judicial agency, or any political subdivision or agency of a political subdivision.

ORC 149.011 (G)

"Records" includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received by, or coming under the jurisdiction of, any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.

ORC149.33: State records program established

(B) The boards of trustees of state-supported institutions of higher education shall have full responsibility for establishing and administering a records program for their respective institutions. The boards shall apply efficient and economical management methods to the creation, utilization, maintenance, retention, preservation, and disposition of the records of their respective institutions.

ORC 149.351: Disposal and transfer of records in accordance with law; Action for injunctive relief for forfeiture

(A) All records are the property of the public office concerned and shall not be removed, destroyed, mutilated, transferred, or otherwise damaged or disposed of, in whole or in part, except as provided by law or under...the records programs established by the boards of trustees of state-supported institutions of higher education under section 149.33 of the Revised Code. Such records shall be delivered by outgoing officials and employees to their successors and shall not be otherwise removed, transferred, or destroyed unlawfully.

(B) Any person who is aggrieved by the removal, destruction, mutilation, or transfer of, or by other damage to or disposition of a records in violation of division (A) of this section, or by threat of such removal, destruction, mutilation, transfer, or other damage to or disposition of such a records, may commence either or both of the following in the court of common pleas of the county in which division (A) of this section allegedly was violated or is threatened to be violated.

(1) A civil action for injunctive relief to compel compliance with division (A) of this section, and to obtain an award of the reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the person in the civil action.

(2) A civil action to recover a forfeiture in the amount of one thousand dollars for each violation, and to obtain an award of the reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the person in the civil action.

ORC 149.40: Only necessary records to be made.

The head of each public office shall cause to be made only such records as are necessary for the adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and for the protection of the legal and financial rights of the state and persons directly affected by the agency's activities.

ORC 149.43: Availability of Public Records.

"Public record" means any record as defined in ORC 149.011 (G) that is kept by any public office with certain exceptions, such as medical records, trial preparation records, confidential law enforcement investigatory records, intellectual property records, donor profile records, and records the release of which are prohibited by state or federal law.

Subject to division (B)(4) of this section, all public records shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Subject to division (B)(4) of this section, upon request, a public office or person responsible for public records shall make copies available at cost, within a reasonable period of time. In order to facilitate broader access to public records, public offices shall maintain public records in a manner that they can be made available for inspection in accordance with this division.

See Bowling Green State University's Public Records Policy.

Ohio Revised Code - General Provisions - Chapter 9
§ 9.01. Methods for making records, copies, and reproductions.

When any officer, office, court, commission, board, institution, department, agent, or employee of the state, of a county, or of any other political subdivision who is charged with the duty or authorized or required by law to record, preserve, keep, maintain, or file any record, document, plat, court file, paper, or instrument in writing, or to make or furnish copies of any of them, deems it necessary or advisable, when recording or making a copy or reproduction of any of them or of any such record, for the purpose of recording or copying, preserving, and protecting them, reducing space required for storage, or any similar purpose, to do so by means of any ...means...which correctly and accurately... reproduces...the original record..., such hereby authorized....The film or paper used for a process shall comply with the minimum standards of quality approved for permanent photographic records by the national bureau of standards. All such records, copies, or reproductions shall carry a certificate of authenticity and completeness, on a form specified by the director of administrative services through the state records program.

Ohio Revised Code - Chapter 1306 - Uniform Electronic Transactions Act
§ 1306.01. Definitions

As used in sections 1306.01 to 1306.23 of the Revised Code:

(B) "Automated transaction" means a transaction conducted or performed, in whole or in part, by electronic means or electronic records, in which the acts or records of one or both parties are not reviewed by an individual in the ordinary course in forming a contract, performing under an existing contract, or fulfilling an obligation required by the transaction.

(C) "Computer program" means a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in an information processing system in order to bring about a certain result.

Ohio Revised Code - Chapter 1347 - Personal Information Systems
§ 1347.01. Definitions.

As used in this chapter: 

(A) "State agency" means the office of any elected state officer and any agency, board, commission, department, division, or educational institution of the state. 

(B) "Local agency" means any municipal corporation, school district, special purpose district, or township of the state or any elected officer or board, bureau, commission, department, division, institution, or instrumentality of a county. 

(C) "Special purpose district" means any geographic or political jurisdiction that is created by statute to perform a limited and specific function, and includes, but is not limited to, library districts, conservancy districts, metropolitan housing authorities, park districts, port authorities, regional airport authorities, regional transit authorities, regional water and sewer districts, sanitary districts, soil and water conservation districts, and regional planning agencies. 

(D) "Maintains" means state or local agency ownership of, control over, responsibility for, or accountability for systems and includes, but is not limited to, state or local agency depositing or information with a data processing center for storage, processing, or dissemination. An agency "maintains" all systems of records that are required by law to be kept by the agency. 

(E) "Personal information" means any information that describes anything about a person, or that indicates actions done by or to a person, or that indicates that a person possesses certain personal characteristics, and that contains, and can be retrieved from a system by, a name, identifying number, symbol, or other identifier assigned to a person. 

(F) "System" means any collection or group of related records that are kept in an organized manner and that are maintained by a state or local agency, and from which personal information is retrieved by the name of the person or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifier assigned to the person. "System" includes both records that are manually stored and records that are stored using electronic data processing equipment. "System" does not include collected archival records in the custody of or administered under the authority of the Ohio historical society, published directories, reference materials or newsletters, or routine information that is maintained for the purpose of internal office administration, the use of which would not adversely affect a person. 

(G) "Interconnection of systems" means a linking of systems that belong to more than one agency or to an agency and other organizations, which linking of systems results in a system that permits each agency or organization involved in the linking to have unrestricted access to the systems of the other agencies and organizations. 

(H) "Combination of systems" means a unification of systems that belong to more than one agency, or to an agency and another organization, into a single system in which the records that belong to each agency or organization may or may not be obtainable by the others. 

Ohio Revised Code - Chapter 1347 - Personal Information Systems
§ 1347.01. (8) Express Exemptions

(A) Peace Officer, Firefighter or EMT's Residential and Familial Information
Peace officer, firefighter or EMT's residential and familial information is expressly exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act [Ohio Revised Code Ann. 14943(A)(7)]. The term includes the following information kept in the personnel file of a peace officer, firefighter, or EMT:

* Officer's residential address (except the state or political subdivision, which is still public record);
* Information compiled by an employee assistance program (see also, Ohio Rev. Code 3701.041);
* The officer's social security number;
* Residential telephone number;
* Bank account number;
* Any medical information;
* Beneficiaries' names;
* Voluntary payroll deductions; and
* The name, address, employer name and address, Social Security number, residential telephone numbers, bank account number, debit/charge/credit card numbers, or emergency telephone number for the officer's spouse, former spouse, and children.

The term also refers to any other record that identifies a person's occupation as a peace officer, firefighter or EMT. However, it does not include disclosure of that fact under campaign finance law. However, a journalist may still obtain a peace officer, firefighter or EMT's residential address, and the name and address of the employer of the officer's spouse, former spouse, or children, if that employer is a public office. To obtain that information, the journalist must submit a written request including the journalist's name, title, employer's name and address, and a statement that release of the information is in the public interest.

§ 1347.05. Duties of state and local agencies.

Every state or local agency that maintains a personal information system shall: 

(A) Appoint one individual to be directly responsible for the system; 

(B) Adopt and implement rules that provide for the operation of the system in accordance with the provisions of this chapter that, in the case of state agencies, apply to state agencies or, in the case of local agencies, apply to local agencies; 

(C) Inform each of its employees who has any responsibility for the operation or maintenance of the system, or for the use of personal information maintained in the system, of the applicable provisions of this chapter and of all rules adopted in accordance with this section; 

(D) Specify disciplinary measures to be applied to any employee who initiates or otherwise contributes to any disciplinary or other punitive action against any individual who brings to the attention of appropriate authorities, the press, or any member of the public, evidence of unauthorized use of information contained in the system; 

(E) Inform a person who is asked to supply personal information for a system whether the person is legally required to, or may refuse to, supply the information; 

(F) Develop procedures for purposes of monitoring the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness of the personal information in this system, and, in accordance with the procedures, maintain the personal information in the system with the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness that is necessary to assure fairness in any determination made with respect to a person on the basis of the information; 

(G) Take reasonable precautions to protect personal information in the system from unauthorized modification, destruction, use, or disclosure; 

(H) Collect, maintain, and use only personal information that is necessary and relevant to the functions that the agency is required or authorized to perform by statute, ordinance, code, or rule, and eliminate personal information from the system when it is no longer necessary and relevant to those functions. 

§ 1347.10. Liability for wrongful disclosure; limitation of action.

(A)  A person who is harmed by the use of personal information that relates to him and that is maintained in a personal information system may recover damages in civil action from any person who directly and proximately caused the harm by doing any of the following: 

(1)Intentionally maintaining personal information that he knows, or has reason to know, is inaccurate, irrelevant, no longer timely, or incomplete and may result in such harm; 
(2)Intentionally using or disclosing the personal information in a manner prohibited by law; 
(3)Intentionally supplying personal information for storage in, or using or disclosing personal information maintained in, a personal information system, that he knows, or has reason to know, is false; 
(4)Intentionally denying to the person the right to inspect and dispute the personal information at a time when inspection or correction might have prevented the harm.
An action under this division shall be brought within two years after the cause of action accrued or within six months after the wrongdoing is discovered, whichever is later; provided that no action shall be brought later than six years after the cause of action accrued. The cause of action accrues at the time that the wrongdoing occurs.

(B)  Any person who, or any state or local agency that, violates or proposes to violate any provision of this chapter may be enjoined by any court of competent jurisdiction. The court may issue an order or enter a judgment that is necessary to ensure compliance with the applicable provisions of this chapter or to prevent the use of any practice that violates this chapter. An action for an injunction may be prosecuted by the person who is the subject of the violation, by the attorney general, or by any prosecuting attorney.