In the case of State ex rel. Fair Housing Opportunities of Northwest Ohio v. Ohio Fair Plan, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-2667, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the underwriting association was a public office and must comply with public record requests when the association was created by state statute to be a public office.
In this case, the center argued that (1) the underwriting association was a public office because it was created by statute and (2) owed statutory damages, including legal fees, when the center’s public record request was improperly denied. In response, the underwriting association argued that (1) the association does not perform a governmental function and the private insurers that make up the association are not subject to the Public Records Act and (2) even if the association was a public office, the association had a reasonable belief that the association was not subject to the Public Records Act and attempted to work with the center to find an amicable resolution. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the center on the record request claim and with the association regarding the statutory damages claim.
In support of its decision in favor of the center on the record request claim, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that the creation of the association by a statute shows that the association was created to be a public office. The Ohio Supreme Court further explained that a statutory exception existed for some of the association’s documents not being public records, which helps show that other association documents are public records.
In support of its decision in favor of the association on the statutory damages claim, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that this was the first case against the association regarding the association being a public office, so the belief that the association was not subject to the Public Records Act was a reasonable one.
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.