22. Public Records Policy

STOW-MUNROE FALLS PUBLIC LIBRARY        Date Adopted:  September 24, 2007
MANUAL OF LIBRARY POLICIES
SUBJECT:    Public Records Policy            Resolution No.    070924-10


Section 1    Public Records

In accordance with the Ohio Revised Code and applicable judicial decisions, records are defined as any item that:

1.  Contains information stored on a fixed medium (such as paper, electronic – including but not limited to e-mail – and other formats).
2.  Created or received by, or sent under the jurisdiction of a public office.
3.  Documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the office.

Public records are to be open to the public at all reasonable time during regular business hours with exceptions only as provided for in the law.

As required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying.


Section 2    Record requests

Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:

1.  “If a requester makes an ambiguous or overly broad request or has difficulty in making a request for copies or inspection of public records under this section such that the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record cannot reasonably identify what public records are being requested, the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record may deny the request but shall provide the requester with an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained by the public office and accessed in the ordinary course of the public office’s or person’s duties.” ORC149.43 (B) (2)

2.  The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record.  In fact, the statute permits a public body to ask for the requester’s identity, and to ask for the intended use of the information requested, but only if the public body first discloses to the requester that the requester may decline to answer either or both questions.


3.  Only Public records responsive to the request need be so available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays.  Public records must be made available for inspection promptly.  Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time.  “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested; the proximity of the location where the records are sorted; and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.

4.  Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records.

5.  Any denial of public records in whole or in part requested must include an explanation.  Also, if the original request was in writing, then the explanation for denial also has to be in writing.

Section 3      Costs for Public Records

Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies.  “Upon a request made in accordance with division (B) of this section and subject to division (B) (6) of this section, a public office or person responsible for public records shall transmit a copy of a public record to any person by United States mail or by any other means of delivery or transmission with a reasonable period of time after receiving the request for the copy.  The public office or person responsible for the public record may require the person making the request to pay in advance the cost of postage if the copy is transmitted by United States mail or the cost of delivery if the copy is transmitted other than by United States mail, and to pay in advance the costs incurred for other supplies used in the mailing, delivery, or transmission.”  ORC 149.43 (B) (7)

The law also permits the copying costs to be paid up front:  “If any person chooses to obtain a copy of a public record in accordance with division (B) of this section the public office or person responsible for the public record may require that person to pay in advance the cost involved in providing the copy of the public record in accordance with the choice made by the person seeking the copy under this division.  The public office or the person responsible for the public record shall permit that person to choose to have the public record duplicated upon paper, upon the same medium upon which the public office or person responsible for the public record keeps it, or upon any other medium upon which the public office or person responsible for the public record determines that it reasonably can be duplicated as an integral part of the normal operations of the public office or person responsible for the public record.  When the person seeking the copy makes a choice under this division, the public office or person responsible for the public record shall provide a copy of it in accordance with the choice made by the person seeking the copy.  Nothing in this section requires a public office or person responsible for the public record to allow the person seeking a copy of the public record to make the copies of the public record.”  ORC149.43 (B) (6)

Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them.  They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.


Section 4    E-mail

E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.

Personal e-mail could potentially contain communications that are public records if the definition of “public record” is satisfied.