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Auditor finds 20 counties In violation of Sunshine Laws

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Ohio’s auditor is urging counties in Ohio to increase their transparency after 20 counties failed to properly keep track of their public records.

Ohio’s Open Records and Open Meetings laws, commonly known as “Sunshine Laws,” allow Ohioans access to government meetings and records. Failure to keep track of public records is a direct violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws.

Auditor Dave Yost announced during Sunshine Week in March that county audits are designed to ensure each entity was in full compliance with the Ohio Public Records Act.

Of the standards examined, the audits questioned counties’ ability for prompt responses to requests for inspections and responses within a reasonable time for copies. Auditors also analyzed records retention schedules related to public record requests, and best practice procedures such as training, redaction practices and documentation of response.

Twenty counties audited fell short of compliance with Ohio’s Sunshine Laws, having weakness in their public records policies and procedures. In addition, they cited five cities and three counties for not following either state laws or best practices.

The results of the audits ranged from full compliance with the Sunshine Laws to the failure to centralize how public records request are fulfilled and tracked.

“It’s disappointing in this day and age with all the attention on transparence that we don’t do enough to make sure the people’s records are accessible,” Yost said. “We’ve just got to do better.”

For Allen County, the lack of transparency in government procedures is so dated it’s almost prehistoric. The county has yet to implement formal procedures to track public records requests.

Both Beavercreek and Bowling Green failed to track public records requests by date and fulfillment.

Cuyahoga County received the harshest criticism for their lack of compliance with the Sunshine Laws. The results of the audit pointed to a lack of consistency across county departments on how public records logs are kept and forwarded to the deputy countywide records manager.

Yost made comments and recommendations that accompanied the audits for each county. Cuyahoga, as the rest of the audited counties, plan to work to achieve full compliance for a more efficient government.

Sunshine Laws serve an important place in today’s government – they ensure an open line of communication between the government and residents of a city. Without their execution, motives of government officials can only be questioned at keeping them hidden.

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