I. Mission Statement
It is the mission and intent of the Summit Metro Parks (“Metro Parks”) to at all times fully comply with and abide by both the spirit and the letter of Ohio’s Public Records Act, codified at Ohio Revised Code §149.43.
II. Defining Public Records
A. All records kept by the Metro Parks are public unless they are exempt from disclosure under Ohio law. (Exemptions include, but are not limited to, confidential law enforcement investigatory records, medical records, and records the release of which is prohibited by state or federal law such as security and infrastructure records, records subject to attorney-client privilege and records subject to a constitutional right of privacy.) All public records must be organized and maintained in such a way that they can be made available for inspection and copying (at requestor’s cost).
B. A record is defined to include the following: A document in any format – paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, business e-mail) – that is created, received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of the Metro Parks that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Metro Parks. Remember that whatever you put down electronically or in writing is subject to public inspection. Therefore, you should never write or record any material that is personal, extraneous or not directly related to your job.
III. Handling Record Requests
A. No specific language is required to make a request for public records. However, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the Metro Parks to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the Metro Parks 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 Metro Parks keeps its public records.
B. The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is the Metro Parks’ general policy that this information is not to be requested. However, the law does permit the Metro Parks to ask for a written request, the requestor’s identity, and/or the intended use of the information requested, but only (1) if a written request or disclosure of identity or intended use would benefit the requestor by enhancing the Metro Parks’ ability to identify, locate, or deliver the public records that have been requested; and (2) after telling the requestor that a written request is not required and that the requester may decline to reveal the requestor’s identity or intended use.
C. However, in processing the request, the Metro Parks does not have an obligation to create new records or perform new analysis of existing information. An electronic record is deemed to exist so long as a computer is already programmed to produce the record through simple sorting, filtering, or querying. Although not required by law, the Metro Parks may accommodate the requestor by generating new records when it makes sense and is practical under the circumstances and not excessively costly.
D. In processing a request for inspection of a public record, an office employee must accompany the requester during inspection to make certain original records are not taken or altered. Further, public records requested for inspection will be made available for inspection only during normal business hours, 8:00a.m.– 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday (with the exception of published holidays) at Metro Parks’ offices at 975 Treaty Line Road, Akron, Ohio. A record request that is unduly burdensome may be subject to rejection or modification. Such burdensome request should be reviewed with your supervisor.
IV. Costs of Copying
A. The Metro Parks will charge 6¢ per page for all documents that are copied by the Metro Parks, which represents the Metro Parks’ actual cost of copying, not labor.
B. A requester may be required to pay in advance for costs involved in providing the copy. The requester may choose whether to have the record duplicated upon paper, upon the same medium in which the public record is kept, or upon any other medium on which the Metro Parks determines that the record can reasonably be duplicated as an integral part of its normal operations.
C. The Metro Parks reserves the right to use an outside service to copy documents when:
1. Requests exceed twenty pages of copying; or
2. Requests require the copying of material in formats that are not accommodated by the copying equipment available at the Metro Parks; or
3. Requests which require that documents not maintained in paper format are requested in paper format.
D. If an outside copy service is used, the person requesting the documents must pay the actual cost charged by that service for making copies and the person requesting documents shall be provided with an estimated cost of copies in advance.
V. Time for Responding to Requests
A. The Metro Parks will make public records available for inspection reasonably promptly. The Metro Parks will make available copies of public records 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; and the necessity for any legal review and redaction of the records requested.
B. In all cases, the Metro Parks will acknowledge all requests for public records in writing and, if possible, satisfy such requests within three business days following the Metro Parks’ receipt of the request. If a request cannot be completed within three business days following the Metro Parks’ receipt of the request, the Metro Parks will provide a status report that indicates an anticipated response date.
VI. Providing Documents by Mail
A. The Metro Parks will transmit documents by the United States mail, regular delivery, to a party who has made a request for copies of documents, subject to the following conditions:
1. The request must ask that the copies be mailed, and
2. The cost of copies, the postage, and materials to ship the documents must be paid in advance.
B. The Metro Parks will not mail more than ten document requests per month to any person unless that person signs a statement certifying that he or she does not intend to use or forward the requested records, or the information contained in them, for commercial purposes, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §149.43 (B)(3).
C. In the event that a request for copies of documents does not specifically ask that the copies be mailed, the Metro Parks may, at its discretion, utilize the United States mail to transmit the copies of documents to the requestor.
D. There is no charge for documents e-mailed.
VII. Electronic Records
A. Records in the form of e-mail, text messaging, and instant messaging, including those sent and received via a hand-held communications device (such as a Blackberry) are to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats, such as paper or audiotape.
B. Public record content transmitted to or from private accounts or personal devices is subject to disclosure. All Metro Parks employees or representatives are required to retain their e-mail records and other electronic records in accordance with applicable records retention schedules.
VIII. Denial or Redaction of Records
A. If the requester makes an ambiguous or overly broad request or has difficulty in articulating a request for public records, the request may be denied, but the denial must provide the requester with an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained and accessed by Metro Parks.
B. Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If the initial request was made in writing, the explanation must also be in writing. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions may be redacted and the rest released. When making public records available for public inspection or copying, Metro Parks shall notify the requestor of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
IX. Managing Records
The Metro Parks’ records are subject to records retention schedules. The Metro Parks’ current schedules are available at Metro Parks’ offices at 975 Treaty Line Road, Akron, Ohio, a location readily available to the public as required by §149.43(B)(2), Ohio Revised Code.
X. Distribution and Posting of Policy
This policy, or a summary poster of its provisions, will be posted in a conspicuous place in the central administrative office of the Metro Parks and in all parks. This policy will be provided to the Metro Parks employee(s) who have custody of Metro Parks’ records, and those employee(s) shall acknowledge in writing their receipt of the policy. This policy will also be included in any employee handbook.