McGown & Markling represents political subdivisions and public officials throughout the State of Ohio and, frankly, we have been blessed to have clients who are dedicated to fully complying with the Ohio Sunshine Laws: The Ohio Public Records Act and The Ohio Open Meetings Act.
Open and transparent government is the cornerstone of our democracy and especially local governance. So, regardless of whether you are a public official or a citizen, it’s your right to know how to access your public records and meetings, and to actually access your public records and meetings, within the very narrow limitations established by the Ohio General Assembly. To that end, McGown & Markling encourages every political subdivision and public official to join us in celebrating Sunshine Week from March 12, 2017, through March 18, 2017, and ensuring that the sun shines throughout the year.
A simple way you can celebrate Sunshine Week is to have your political subdivision pass a proclamation reaffirming your commitment to open and transparent government. Sample open government proclamations can be found on the Sunshine Week website by clicking here. Additional ways of celebrating access to public information and what it means for you and your community can also be found throughout the Sunshine Week website by clicking here.
An even better way to celebrate Sunshine Week is to educate yourself on the Ohio Sunshine Laws so you can be a better public official and maybe even avoid reading about yourself and your political subdivision in a lawsuit, newspaper article, or our blog. There are countless blogworthy public record and open meeting disputes every year. Here are just a few:
- School Board Settles Open Meetings Act Lawsuit
- Township Trustees Violated Trustee Vacancy Law And The Open Meetings Act When Declaring A Trustee Office Vacant
- The Details of Legal Work Done by a City’s Outside Firm Are Not a Public Record
- Customer Lists Can Be Trade Secrets Exempt From Disclosure Under The Ohio Public Records Act
- Schools Must Release Student Directory Information as Public Records
- Court Invalidates Board Resolutions To Close A High School Because Of Open Meetings Act Violations
- Prearranged Discussions by E-Mail Violate Ohio’s Open Meetings Act
Educating yourself on the Ohio Sunshine Laws is easy. The Ohio Attorney General even makes the following public record and open meeting resources available to you – free of charge – online:
- Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual
- Answers to Sunshine Law Frequently Asked Questions
- Sunshine Laws Informational Videos
- A Model Public Records Policy
Attention elected officials: R.C. 109.43 mandates that every elected official must attend three hours of training programs and seminars for every term of office in order to enhance the elected officials’ knowledge of the duty to provide access to public records and to enhance the elected official’s knowledge of the open meetings laws. While elected officials are allowed to designate someone else to attend these training programs and seminars on their behalf, why would any elected official really want to do that? Elected officials will be hard pressed to make the argument that they somehow absorbed three hours of sunshine law training via osmosis through their designees. And, in any event, ignorance of sunshine laws will never be an excuse or defense when elected officials find themselves in court for sunshine law violations. To that end, McGown & Markling encourages all elected officials to actually attend all three hours of sunshine law training themselves – the training is even free and can be taken online.
McGown & Markling attorneys are also available to provide you and your political subdivision with specific guidance on Ohio Sunshine Law issues as every situation is fact specific.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and Patrick Vrobel.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.