Public Records Policy
Open Records Mission Statement
Consistent with the premise that government at all levels exists first and foremost to serve the interests of the people, it is our mission and intent to at all times fully comply with and abide by both the spirit and the letter of Ohio’s Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act.
In order to accomplish the mission of fully complying with both the letter and spirit of the Open Records and Open Meetings Acts, Union Township hereby incorporates the following Statement of Principles as the foundation for its Public Record Policy Handbook:
Statement of Principles
Union Township: Will enact a formal resolution memorializing the Mission Statement;
Will ensure that appropriate personnel become and remain fully trained in and aware of the provisions of the acts;
Will do nothing that abridges the public’s right to obtain information about their government or that inhibits or discourages citizens from doing so;
Will do everything possible to aid those who are seeking information, including but not limited to, fully explaining the scope and operation of the acts and assisting citizens in the formulation of requests;
Will construe the provisions of the acts in a manner that favors compliance with requests for information;
Will seek guidance from the legal counsel whenever a question arises about the application of the acts or about the appropriateness of a request for information;
Will clearly and concisely state the reason or reasons why a request for information has been denied.
It is the policy of the Union Township Board of Trustees that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of Union Township Board of Trustees to adhere to the state’s Public Records Act. Any denial of public records in response to a valid request will be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. If the request is in writing, the explanation will also be in writing. Union Township reserves the right to amend this Policy Handbook from time to time, as required, to keep pace with revisions to the Ohio Public Records Law.
Article I. Definitions & General Administrative Requirements
Section 1.01 Definition of Public Record
Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines the term “PUBLIC RECORD” as including the following: Any document – paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format – that is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of Union Township agencies. All records of Union Township are public unless they are otherwise specifically exempt from disclosure, as enumerated within the Ohio Revised Code.
Section 1.02 Records Retention & Organization
It is the policy of Union Township that all records subject to disclosure, including email, as required by Ohio law, will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying. Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and shall be posted within the administrative offices of all Union Township agencies.
Article II. Processing Requests for Public Records
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines established within this section of the Union Township Public Records Policy Handbook. All requests shall be forwarded to the Union Township Fiscal Officer.
Section 2.01 Identification of Public Records Requested
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the designated employee(s) or agents of Union Township to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the Township will contact the requester for clarification, and will assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the Township keeps its records.
Section 2.02 Transmittal of Request to Agency – No Identification Required
The requester shall not be required to put a records request in writing, and shall not be required to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. However, in certain instances, individuals requesting public records may voluntarily provide his/her identity and/or contact information in order to assist Union Township staff in complying with the public records request.
Section 2.03 Inspection & Processing of Records Request
Public records shall be made available for inspection during regular business hours at the offices of Union Township, with the exception of published holidays. Public records shall be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records will 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 stored; and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.
Section 2.04 Responding to Public Records Requests
Each request for public records will be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records requested. Routine requests for records will be satisfied immediately, if feasible. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes, budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, etc. If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be readily e-mailed, electronically copied, or downloaded easily by the requester, the aforementioned files, copies, or data will be made as quickly as Township technology allows.
All requests for public records to Union Township will either be satisfied or be acknowledged in writing by the Township within three (3) business days following the receipt of the request. If a request is deemed to be beyond the scope of daily activities, such as seeking a voluminous number of copies or requiring extensive research, the acknowledgement shall include the following information:
- An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request
- An estimated cost if copies are requested
Section 2.05 Denial or Redaction of Public Records
Any denial of public records requested will include an explanation, including legal authority for such denial. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt as established within the Ohio Revised Code, the exempt portions will be redacted and the remainder of the document released to the requesting party. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority for said redaction(s). In every instance, Union Township staff shall seek an opinion from the Union Township Law Director prior to finalizing any redaction to any requested records, or prior to denying a request for public records.
Article III. Transmittal & Recovery of Costs
Section 3.01 Costs for Public Records – General Procedures
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies incurred by Union Township in the process of fulfilling a specific public records request. An invoice outlining the actual costs incurred for each item shall be prepared for the requester. Union Township staff shall issue a receipt of payment for the requested public records to the requester. Requested records will not be released until such time that payment is received for such request in full from the requester.
Section 3.02 Paper Copies
- The charge for 8.5”x 11” paper copies shall be $0.10 per page
- The charge for 8.5”x 14” paper copies shall be $0.10 per page
- The charge for 11”x 17” paper copies shall be $0.15 per page
- The charge for oversize plans, prints, or other documents shall be $5.00 per sheet
- The charge for outsourced plans, prints or other documents shall be the actual costs incurred by the Township as invoiced by the designated third-party vendor
Section 3.03 Electronic Copies, Audio Recordings, & Digital Media
- The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc shall be $2.00 per disc
- The charge for DVD recordings of public meetings shall be $5.00 per disc
- The charge for audio cassette recordings of public meetings shall be $2.00 per cassette tape
Section 3.04 Electronic Transmittal of Documents
There shall be no charge for documents e-mailed to the requester or for files transferred to a requester via “FTP” site (file transfer protocol).
Section 3.05 Transmittal via Regular Mail or Courier Service
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them or delivered to them via courier service. Requesters shall be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies, or the actual cost of effecting delivery via the designated courier service.
Article IV. Electronic Message (EMAIL) Records
Documents in electronic mail format may be public records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules as other public records.
Section 4.01 Email Records – General Provisions
Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all employees or representatives of this office are instructed to retain their e-mails that relate to public business in accordance with Article I of this document. Records in private email accounts shall be periodically copied to their business e-mail accounts and/or to designated email archives as determined by the office’s records custodian.
Section 4.02 Retention of Email Records
The records custodian of each Union Township agency shall treat the e-mails referenced in Section 4.01 of this Article as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act, as amended.
Article V. Administration and Enforcement
Section 5.01 Remedies for Failure to Comply
Any employee of Union Township, including the designated Records Custodian for each Union Township agency, who willfully fails to fulfill a Public Records request by failing to follow the instructions of the appointed Records Custodian or who fails to observe the policies and procedures adopted within this document may be subject to disciplinary action as established within Article VII of the Personnel Policy Manual of Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio (September 2014).