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Is a Public Records Copy Too Expensive? Send an Invoice!

In the case of State ex rel. Ware v. Kurt, 2023-Ohio-202, an appellate court held that, on the one hand, a county official violated R.C. 149.43 by not providing an invoice to produce a lengthy document, but, on the other hand, the requestor was not entitled to statutory damages as the requestor failed to prove that the record request was sent by certified mail.

In this case, the requester argued that the county official denied the requester’s public records request for an 800-page employee handbook — that was allegedly sent one year early by certified mail — as the official only provided sections of the handbook and did not provide an invoice to reproduce the entire handbook. In response, the county official argued that not only was the request overbroad, but the official never received the request by certified mail and only knew of the request after the  complaint was filed. The appellate court agreed with both the requester and official.

On the one hand, in support of its decision in favor of the requestor, the appellate court explained that, while R.C. 149.43 does not require a public official to provide public record copies free of charge, officials can require prepayment for the copies and failure to send the requester an invoice for such a copy amounted to a denial of the requested handbook.

On the other hand, in support of its decision in favor of the official, the appellate court explained that the requester “had the burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that [the requester] submitted [the requester’s] request by certified mail,” and, “[b]ecause the evidence is evenly balanced, [the requester] has not met this heightened burden and, therefore, [the requester] is not entitled to statutory damages.” 2023-Ohio-202 at ¶ 30.

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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