COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new and inexpensive appeals process for Ohioans denied public records by government at local and state levels is set to begin later this month.
The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2cigmE9) reports the Ohio Court of Claims will start accepting complaints on Sept. 28 through a website.
The process requires a complaint form, a $25 filing fee and accompanying copies of the records requests and government denials. A system allowing the filing and payment is expected to start operating by Nov. 1.
Under the law, complaints will be sent to a mediator who will work with citizens and government officials to reach a resolution. If no agreement is reached, a special master will rule whether it was legally correct for the government to deny the request or if it broke the law and must hand over the records.
"If the process works as intended, Ohio may have a national model to quickly and affordably resolve many cases that would otherwise clog court calendars or never get litigated at all," said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association.
Former Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clark retired this month and will be the court's special master in ruling on records appeals. The court has five magistrates who will also serve as mediators.
Attorney General Mike DeWine and Auditor Dave Yost have stopped their offices' respective complaint programs due to the new program. Yost's office had accepted complaints against state government agencies. DeWine's office offered to mediate disputes between residents and local governments.
The law was introduced in the spring by Republican Senate President Keith Faber who said the process would be easier for people who believe they're wrongfully denied records.
Lawmakers have appropriated $500,000 to pay for the program.
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com