Public Records Policy
It is the policy of the Chardon Municipal Court that openness leads to a better-informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of the Chardon Municipal Court to adhere to the State's Public Records Act. All exemptions to openness are to be construed narrowly. A refusal to provide public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. If the request is in writing, the explanation must also be in writing.
Section 1. Public Records
The Chardon Municipal Court, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines a "public record" or "record" as the following: Any document, paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format that is created or received by or comes under the jurisdiction of any Court department that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. All records of the Chardon Municipal Court are public, unless they are exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code.
It is the policy of the Chardon Municipal Count that records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying (see Section 4 for the e-mail record policy). Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and posted prominently. The Chardon Municipal Court adopts the records retention schedules in the Ohio Historical Society's Ohio Municipal Records Manual, Suggested Records Retention Periods (3d. Rev. Ed.).
Section 2. Record Requests
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines.
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification and should assist the requester in revising the request by informing the requester of the manner in which the office keeps its records.
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. "Prompt" and "reasonable" take into account the volume of records requested, the proximity of the location where the records are stored, the necessity for any legal review of the records requested, and disruption to conduct of Court business if records are provided immediately.
Each request should be evaluated for the estimated length of time required to gather the records. Routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately, if feasible to do so. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, and personnel rosters. If fewer than twenty (20) pages of copies are requested, or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be e-mailed or downloaded easily, these should be made as quickly as the equipment allows. If more copies are requested, an appointment should be made for the requester to pick up the copies or computer files.
All requests for public records must either be satisfied (see Section 2.4) or be acknowledged in writing by the Chardon Municipal Court within three (3) business days following receipt of the request. If a request is deemed significantly beyond "routine," such acknowledgment must include the following:
An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request.
An estimated cost, if copies are requested.
Any items within the request that may be exempt from disclosure.
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a public record are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
Section 3. Costs for Public Records
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies.
The charge for paper copies is $.05 per page.
The charge for VHS copies of courtroom proceedings is $1.00.
The charge for downloaded computer files to a CD/DVD is $1.00 per disc.
There is no charge for documents that are sent via e-mail.
There is no charge for documents that are sent via facsimile.
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies in addition to the charge for copies.
Section 4. E-mail
Documents in electronic mail format become public record when the content relates to the business of the Court office. E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure and all employees or representatives of the Chardon Municipal Court are instructed to retain their e-mails that relate to public business (see Section 1 Public Records) and to copy them to their business e-mail accounts and/or to the records custodian.
The records custodian is to treat the e-mails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules, making them available for inspection, and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act.
Section 5. Failure to Respond to a Public Record(s) Request
The Chardon Municipal Court acknowledges the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request. In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, the Chardon Municipal Court's failure to comply with a request may result in a court order upon the Chardon Municipal Court to comply with the law and to pay the requester's attorney's fees and damages.