LIMA — Members of The Lima News were responsible for checking on four counties — Allen, Auglaize, Putnam and Mercer — as part of the open records audit conducted by The Ohio Newspaper Association and The Associated Press.
Craig Kelly, a reporter for The Lima News, made records requests in Wapakoneta and Auglaize County as well as Celina and Mercer County. He said obtaining records “went pretty well.”
“For the most part, I found everyone to be pretty congenial,” Kelly said. “Occasionally someone asked, ‘What is this for and who are you?’ but for the most part they were pretty cooperative.”
Officials in Auglaize County also did not deny access to any public records, but staff at the Wapakoneta Police Department inquired about name and affiliation of Kelly, which he was not required to release. Wapakoneta City Schools also required Kelly to provide his name and sign a document to gain access.
In regard to his email requests, he believed the Auglaize County Health Department misinterpreted his request. The request was for births in the county, while he believes he wanted copies of actual birth certificates.
Mercer County kept a clean record through audits in 2004 and 2014, but Kelly said they requested he provide a name and address with his request for police chief’s salary and mayor’s expense report.
William Laney, a former reporter for The Lima News, collected records in Allen and Putnam counties.
Allen County and the city of Lima did not deny access to any records requested in person or by email. In 2004, the city of Lima required additional information before granting access to police incident reports.
Putnam County had zero denials in 2014 after recording two in 2004.
The other counties in the area also improved.
Hancock County denied access to two of the records during the 2004 survey. They provided access to all the records in 2014, but partial or conditional access to two of the records. Hardin County showed one denial in 2004 and zero in 2014.
Records show Logan County audit showed three denials in 2004 including that the treasurer’s phone bill was not a public record and none in 2014.
Shelby County had two denials and Van Wert had one denial in 2004, but neither county denied access to records in 2014.
Only one county in the state denied access to their commissioner’s minutes in the latest survey compared to seven in 2004.
Reporters made public records requests for:
•A monthly expense report for the mayor of the county’s largest city
•The police chief’s salary
•Police incident reports
•The school superintendent’s pay
•And the school treasurer’s telephone bill.
Records were were requested in person and via email including birth records and health reports as well as records policies for county and city offices.