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You will not get public records if you cannot pay for them.

Published: May 17, 2021 by John Izzo

The law requires that copies of public records must be made available at cost.  A public office acts within its discretion when it declines a public records request based on a good faith belief that the party requesting the records was unable to pay for copying costs.

McDougald, an inmate at the Toledo Correctional Institution, submitted a public records request for a use of force report.  The prison responded by saying that McDougald had insufficient funds in his account to complete the records request.  McDougald was not told how much the record would cost to copy or how much McDougald had in his inmate account.  McDougald petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to order the prison to provide him the requested records.  McDougald stated he had enough money in his account to pay for the record, $1.30.

The Ohio Supreme Court decided McDougald should have followed up with the prison to find out what the costs for copying would be.  Since he failed to do so, the Ohio Supreme Court determined McDougald did not show that the prison failed to fulfill its obligations as a public records custodian.  See The State ex rel. McDougald v. Sehlmeyer, 2020- Ohio-4428.

Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion, separate from the other six Justices.  She reiterated that persons are not entitled to a copy of public records for free.  There are ways around this.  One way, generally speaking, is to request that the document(s) be e-mailed to you.

Graff & McGovern knows administrative law.  We can help you get your license, defend your license, or seek public records you are looking for.  If you have any questions about obtaining public records in Ohio, or obtaining or maintaining your professional license, you should consider contacting an attorney at Graff & McGovern.  John Izzo of Graff & McGovern can be reached at 614-228-5800, extension 5, or