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Public Records Requests for all Emails, New Records, and Already Provided Records Deemed Improper

In the case of Ryan v. Ashtabula, 2023-Ohio-621, the special master recommended dismissing a public record requestor’s complaint under R.C. 149.43 as the requester asked for all emails from 2021, nonexistent “accurate invoices” reflecting the requester’s view of facts, and records the city had already provided.

In this case, the requester simply argued that the requests were proper. In response, the city argued that the requests for all emails from 2021 was overbroad and did not identify any particular records, the requested invoices did not exist, and the city did not have to create records, and the city had already provided records. The court agreed with the city.

In support of its decision in favor of the city, the special master explained that the “request does not point to any particular record, but instead refers to the entire body of emails [the requester] sent in 2021. Further, other portions of [the] complaint illustrate that that body was large and diverse. [The requester] sought a whole category of records received over an extended period of time, an overbroad request.” 2023-Ohio-621 at ¶ 9. The special master also explained that “[the] request is facially invalid because it requests the creation of new records rather than the production of existing records. Public offices ‘have no duty to create nonexistent records.”” Id. at ¶ 20. The special master further explained that “[the requester] has provided no evidence that other responsive records exist.” Id. at ¶ 33.

WARNING: The outcome of this case may have been different had the plaintiff sought relief under R.C. 143.49(B)(2), which mandates that a public office helps requesters formulate proper requests.

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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