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Newsletter Distribution Lists May Not Be Public Records

In the case of Hicks v. Union Twp., 2023-Ohio-874, an appellate court held that email and mailing distribution lists for a township newsletter were not records under R.C. 149.43 as they did not document a governmental function of the township.

In this case, a public record requester argued that the email and mailing lists documented a function of government and are essential to monitoring the performance of government. In response, the township argued that the lists did not document a function of government and were only kept as an administrative convenience to distribute the newsletter. The appellate court agreed with the township.

In support of its decision in favor of the township, the lead opinion explained that releasing the lists “would not provide any further insight into the [t]ownship’s newsletter program than that already available from accessing the newsletter itself of the [t]ownship’s policies regarding the creation and distribution of the newsletter.” 2023-Ohio-874 at ¶ 34. The appellate court further explained that “the names and [] addresses represent contact information used as a matter of convenience in distributing the newsletters.” Id. at ¶ 34.

It should be noted that Judge M. Powell issued a dissenting opinion arguing that “[t]he newsletter is not a routine administrative communication incident to some other primary function of the [t]ownship, but a [t]ownship sanctioned communication to members of the public.” Id. at ¶ 45 (Powell, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). The dissenting option further argued that “[d]istribution of the newsletter is a fundamental aspect of the operation of the program.” Id. at ¶ 52.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.


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.

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