Uphold Public’s Right to Information

State law gives Ohioans a substantial amount of power to demand public records. But if government officials refuse to turn them over, those seeking the information have had little recourse but to go to court.

Until now. Attorney General Mike DeWine has established a new program to mediate disputes about accessibility to public records.

DeWine’s office will not mediate disputes involving state government, for the obvious reason the attorney general officially represents the state. But many confrontations over public records occur at the local level, and the new program will be an enormous help there.

Most people whose requests for access to documents are rejected cannot afford to file court actions to compel compliance with state law. Because many of the officials withholding records know that, the answer those seeking records often is an automatic “no.”

By offering a much less expensive avenue to follow up on such rejections, the attorney general’s office is doing an enormous service to Ohioans – and the cause of open government.

On the other hand, local officials who refuse to participate in the mediation program are making their preference for secrecy clear. That is something voters should remember at election time.