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The Ohio Supreme Court Orders The Release Of Incident Reports Related To Former Cuyahoga County Executive

In State ex rel. Miller v. Pinkney, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-1335, the Ohio Supreme Court clarified that routine incident reports are public records that do not fall under the security records exemption of the Ohio Public Records Act.

The case involved a public records request for “all offense or incident reports in the possession, custody, or control of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s office in which” the former county executive “was identified.” Pinkney at ¶ 1. The sheriff’s office denied the request by asserting that the records were security records exempt from release under the Ohio Public Records Act.

The Ohio Supreme Court rejected this rationale and ruled that incident reports initiate criminal investigations but are not part of the actual investigation. In contrast, a security record is “[a]ny record that contains information directly used for protecting or maintaining the security of a public office against attack, interference, or sabotage.” R.C. 149.433(A)(1). As a result, routine offense and incident reports are public records that are normally subject to immediate release upon request. Upon examination of the records, the Ohio Supreme Court determined that several contested records were incident reports subject to immediate release.

While the incident reports were public records subject to immediate release under the Ohio Public Records Act, this fact did not absolve the public office of its obligation to review the incident reports to determine whether they contained additional information that may be exempt under the Ohio Public Records Act. As the Ohio Supreme Court noted, some of incident reports contained exempt information – such as social security numbers – that are properly subject to redaction.

To read this case, please click here.

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.

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