40.007: Public Records Requests
|Re-formatted on June 28, 2016|
Approved on March 13, 2008
|Signatures and dates
on archival copy
Associate Director of Legal Affairs
Executive Vice President and Provost
|Roderick J. McDavis|
Date of Approval
Following Last Full Review:
|March 13, 2008||
- A. Overview
Ohio university has adopted this policy to comply fully with the Ohio Public Records Act, Section 149.43 ORC, as amended. As a public office, Ohio university must adopt and post this policy. It must organize and maintain its records in a manner that makes them available for inspection and copying, as well as maintain a records retention schedule.
The university will allow inspection of public records and will provide copies within a reasonable period of time.
- B. Public visibility of this policy
This policy shall be posted online at a location readily accessible to the public.
- C. Timeliness of response
Anyone who expresses an interest in inspecting or requesting copies of a record is entitled by law to "prompt" inspection and copies within a reasonable period of time. However, there is no defined period of time in which a request must be completed. Time factors to be considered include location of the record, manner in which the record is stored, breadth of the request, and legal review.
- D. Definition of public records
- Under Ohio law, a public record is any item, document, or device, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including an electronic record stored in a fixed medium that meets both of the following criteria:
- It is an item, document, or device that is created, received by, or sent under the jurisdiction of the university.
- It is an item, document, or device that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operation, or other activities of the office. This does not include records that do not shed light on a university activity. In short, the records must document something that Ohio university does.
- The university is not required to create new records to respond to a request, even if that would only mean compiling existing information.
- Drafts and notes may be public records if they meet certain legal criteria.
- E. Exemptions
Under Ohio law, a record (or portion of a record) may still be withheld from release because state or federal law makes the record or that portion confidential. These exemptions can include:
The university will respond within the legally permissible review period, which is allowed to determine whether any exemption may apply.
- Attorney-client privileged information held by the university, a department, or an outside entity on behalf of the university.
- Confidential law enforcement investigatory records, which may be internal investigative records that may include names of uncharged suspects, confidential sources, techniques, or attorney work product, while the investigation is still open.
- Records that have been sealed under authority of a court order or a statute.
- Medical records that may contain personal health information that includes medical history, diagnosis, prognosis, or medical condition, generated in the process of medical treatment.
- Student educational records that are not considered directory information under the "Family Education Rights and Privacy Act" (FERPA).
- Records of open or ongoing administrative investigations being conducted by an authorized department of the university, or on behalf of the university by an authorized individual or agency.
- Residential and familial information, which may include home addresses of certain employees, such as police officers, emergency medical technicians, first responders, and firefighters; social security numbers of anyone; telephone numbers; debit or credit information; medical and beneficiary information; and certain payroll deductions. This exemption is ever-evolving and is currently under legal review in several court cases.
- Trial preparation records compiled in reasonable anticipation of litigation against the university or one or more of its employees.
- Security and infrastructure information are records that disclose configuration of a public office's critical systems such as its communications, computer, electrical, mechanical, or security systems. Security records are records that contain information directly used for protecting or maintaining the security of a public office against attack, interference, or sabotage.
- Certain confidential trade secrets in sponsored research agreements (SRA's) may be exempt and subject to legal review before disclosure.
- Donor profile records, which are records about donors or potential donors to the university. (This exemption does not include actual donor names and amounts already given to the university.)
- Catch-all exemptions, which are exemptions that may be found in other federal or state laws that make the item or record subject matter of the particular law and not a public record (e.g., certain child-abuse records).
- F. Requests
The office of legal affairs is the designated office for receiving and reviewing all requests for access to Ohio university's and the Ohio university foundation's public records (see part (J) of this policy, for media requests). Requests should be directed to the Office of Legal Affairs, 150 West Union Street Office Center, Athens, Ohio 45701. The office of legal affairs can be contacted by telephone at (740) 593-2626; e-mail addresses and other contact information are also available online at https://www.ohio.edu/legal/. If another university office receives a request, that office should contact the office of legal affairs immediately to start the process. The law does not require requestors to make their requests in writing or to state the purpose of the request, but the university may seek to clarify the request by asking for the request to be made in writing. The university may also ask for identification of the requestor or require the request to be in writing in special circumstances (e.g. if a request is for extensive financial information). The university may also ask the requester to specifically and particularly describe the records sought, for the purpose of clarity. The requester's motive for making the request will not be asked, unless the requester offers his or her reasons for the request to assist the university in answering the request.
In response to each record request, Ohio university will provide those public records created or received before the date of the original request. There is no legal obligation on the university, without a current new request, to continue to update the requestor if new records are created after records are given to the requestor. It is the requestor's obligation to update his or her requests.
- G. Inspection
In cases in which the requested documents are easily compiled, they will be taken to the office of legal affairs for inspection and copying; or the office of legal affairs will arrange for inspection and copying where the files are located. The inspection and copying will be during business hours. In those cases where the requested records are extensive, the office of legal affairs may provide a staff member who will assist the requester in having access to the records for inspection and copying. There is no charge for inspection of records.
- H. Advance notice
Generally, the academic or administrative office where the records are located will be given advance notification of the requests; and when it is necessary for the office of legal affairs to remove records from the office where they are located, they will be returned as soon as possible.
- I. Copies and mailing
The office of legal affairs will maintain a schedule of copying charges online, linked through https://www.ohio.edu/legal/, specifying the costs for records provided on paper, diskette, CD-ROM, or DVD, and for address labels. After the inspection, the office of legal affairs will make arrangements for any copying of the requested documents. Generally the following procedures will apply:
- The requester will not ordinarily be allowed to do the copying of university records. The ordinary way to provide copies is for the office of legal affairs to do the copying.
- The requester should reasonably identify the documents that are to be copied by the use of some identifiable means that does not alter or deface the document (colored paper clips, removable adhesive notes, etc.). It is the requester's responsibility to provide these and make appropriate designations. If the public records request is not reasonably clear, the office of legal affairs will assist the requestor in identifying what public records may exist by identifying the records in the manner the university keeps the public records, so that the request may be revised.
- The university may limit to ten records per month the number of records it will mail, unless the requester certifies in writing that he or she does not intend to use the records for commercial purposes.
- The university will charge the requester the actual costs of mailing the records via the U.S. Postal Service. The university may require that these charges be paid in advance. The university may not charge the requester for the cost of any employee time used in processing the request. There is no obligation on the university to provide records to requesters who refuse to pay the allowed charges or who state they are unable to pay.
- J. Media requests
Journalists who want public records from the university should initiate their request with the office of university communications and marketing (Scott Quad 173, 740-593-2200 (office), (740) 593-1887 (fax)). The records will be obtained and reviewed by the office of legal affairs and then provided to the office of university communications and marketing, which will provide the records to the journalist.
- K. Personnel files
Personnel files are public records. Although notification is not required by law, when personnel files of current employees are requested, the office of legal affairs will promptly make a good faith effort to inform the employee whose file is the subject of the request. The university will deny access to a personnel file only when the office of legal affairs can identify a high risk of victimization resulting from release.
- L. Questions
Questions concerning the reviewing process or the public records law should be directed to the office of legal affairs by mail at the address given in part (F) of this policy, or by telephone to (740) 593-2626; see also the information that is online at https://www.ohio.edu/legal/.
- M. Redaction or denial of public records request
Redaction occurs when some exempted information in an otherwise public record may be deleted in good faith by the university.
A redaction or denial of a public records request will include a written reason for the redaction or denial, including legal authority.
- N. Recourse for redaction or denial
Any person who believes that the university has violated the public record statutes must independently pursue a remedy rather than asking a public official or the attorney general to initiate legal action on his or her behalf. An action seeking disclosure of the record or records may be brought in a local court of common pleas, an appellate court, or the Ohio supreme court.
- O. Litigation records
In matters of litigation involving the university where legal discovery is involved through the use of releases, subpoenas, production of documents, interrogatories, or other legal process, the office of legal affairs will coordinate the legal discovery process with the university office where files may be located and with the university officials involved.
- P. Related policies and other resources
The following resources should also be consulted as appropriate:
- Policy 12.020.
- Policy 93.002.
- The public may access the Ohio attorney general's web site and look under the publications section for a complete manual on "Ohio's Sunshine Laws."
Proposed revisions of this policy should be reviewed by:
- University Records Manager
- Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College
- Chief Human Resource Officer
- University Registrar
- Forms, References, and History
- 1. Forms
There are no forms that are specific to this policy.
- 2. References
The following items are relevant to this policy:
- Policy 12.020, "Student Records."
- Policy 31.001, "External Communications."
- Policy 40.105, "Appointment of Executive Officers."
- Policy 93.002, "Records Management and Archiving."
- The public may access the Ohio Attorney General's Web Site and look under the publications section for a complete manual on Ohio's Sunshine Laws.
- The Ohio Revised Code is available online, including § 149.43.
- 3. History
Draft versions of this policy that were circulated for review, their cover memos, their forms, and Reviewers' comments on them are available on the password-protected Review site, at https://www.ohio.edu/policy2/40-007/.
Prior versions of this policy were approved on March 13, 2008, and November 1, 1991.