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 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 13-19, 2022 and ensuring that the sun shines throughout the year.
This editorial cartoon is used with the express, written permission of Jeff Parker.
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.
Ideas for celebrating access to public information and what it means for you and your community can be found by clicking here, here, and 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 blog-worthy public record and open meeting disputes every year. Here are just a few over the past year:
- 2023 Sunshine Laws Manual Released (posted March 13, 2023)
- An Exemption of “Some” Public Records from Immediate Disclosure Does Not Excuse the Denial of “All” Public Records(posted March 7, 2023)
- Public Records Requests for all Emails, New Records, and Already Provided Records Deemed Improper (posted February 28, 2023)
- Arrest Footage May Be Public Records (posted February 21, 2023)
- Four-Month Delay in Responding to Public Record Request May Not Be Unreasonable (posted February 15, 2023)
- Seven to Ten-Month Public Record Response Deemed Unreasonable (updated February 14, 2023)
- Personal Notes Used for Personal Purposes Only Found Not to Be Public Records (updated February 14, 2023)
- Fraud Prevention Records Not Subject to Disclosure (posted February 7, 2023)
- Insurance Company and Governmental Risk-Sharing Pool Legal Invoices May Be Public Records (posted January 30, 2023)
- Legal Invoice Narratives May Not Be Public Records (posted January 30, 2023)
- Is a Public Records Copy Too Expensive? Send an Invoice! (posted January 25, 2023)
- Multiple Open Meetings Act Violations of the Same Type Can Only Result in A Single Civil Forfeiture Penalty(posted December 22, 2022)
- Robert’s Rules of Order and Executive Sessions Are Permissive, Not Mandatory (posted December 13, 2022)
- Individuals Challenging Executive Session Motions Have the Burden of Proving That Executive Session Reasons Were Unreasonable (posted December 1, 2022)
- The Ohio Sunshine Laws Permit Executive Session Deliberations for Quasi-Judicial Proceedings (posted November 21, 2022)
- 100,000 Emails May Be Too Much for a Records Request (posted August 31, 2022)
- Attorney Fees and Statutory Damages Awarded For Bad Faith Violation of Public Records Act (posted August 30, 2022)
- Non-Board Member Participation in Board Meeting is not Automatic Violation of Open Meetings Act (posted August 29, 2022)
- Board of Revision’s Delegation of Official Duties Does Not Violate Open Meetings Act (posted June 30, 2022)
- Township Subcommittee Violates Open Meetings Act (posted April 1, 2022)
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:
- 2023 Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual (updated March 13, 2023)
- 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 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.