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Ohio Supreme Court: Threats to Governor Not Subject to Open Records Law

Should the public get the details on threats to the governor? The Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t think so.

The blog Plunderbund requested records from the Department of Public Safety related to threats against the governor. However, the Department refused to provide any public records based on the Ohio Revised Code’s exemption for security records from Ohio’s Open Records Law.

The Ohio Revised Code defines a “security record” as “any record that contains information directly used for protecting or maintaining the security of a public office against attack, interference, or sabotage.”

State ex rel. Plunderbund Media v. Born, weighs what can be considered a “security record,” and what encompasses “protecting…the security of a public office.”

According to the statement of facts, Joseph Mismas, co-owner and managing editor of Plunderbund originally sought to obtain “the number of investigations the Highway Patrol had conducted regarding threats against the governor and a copy of the final version of the investigation report, but not the witness statements.”

Mismas clarified a month later Plunderbund only wanted information on closed investigations, and they would accept “the cover sheet to each report indicating that a case was opened, the nature of the case, and the resolution, while acknowledging that information that might pose a security threat could be redacted.”

Plunderbund made two arguments: 1) that a closed investigation is not a security record and 2) that protecting a “public office,” applied “only to such things as the placement of cameras, blueprints of the building, or the scheduling of security personnel.”

On the other hand, the Department of Public Safety argued, “that the subsection is broader, allowing it to withhold records that might subject the governor to attack, interference, sabotage, or terrorism. It asserts that protecting a ‘public office’ includes protecting the officeholder.” They argued that giving even the slightest detail on the threats might give unwanted insight on security procedures to those planning future attacks.

The Supreme Court justices opted to side unanimously with the Department of Public Safety.

In their opinion, they stated: “Indeed, a public office cannot function without the employees and agents who work in that office, and records “directly used for protecting or maintaining the security of a public office” must inevitably include those that are directly used for protecting and maintaining the security of the employees and other officers of that office.”

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy recused herself for this case, and Judge Michael E. Powell of the Twelfth District Court of Appeals served in her place.

Plunderbund has indicated that they hope to file a Motion for Reconsideration.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Stephanie Kreuz

Stephanie is the editor of Watchdog Wire - Ohio. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College. You can contact her at Ohio@WatchdogWire.com for story ideas and ways to get involved with citizen journalism in the state of Ohio.

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