Open Government

Federal laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, and state laws like Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings acts, were designed to promote citizen involvement and government accountability. Transparency allows for increased public awareness of government functions and actions, a higher level of efficiency and accountability, and a deeper sense of trust between leadership and the community.

JobsOhio

In 2011, Ohio began a plan to privatize the state’s Department of Development, replacing it with a non-profit known as JobsOhio. The plan was a centerpiece of Governor John Kasich’s legislative agenda. It also allowed JobsOhio to meet in near …

In 2011, Ohio began a plan to privatize the state’s Department of Development, replacing it with a non-profit known as JobsOhio. The plan was a centerpiece of Governor John Kasich’s legislative agenda. It also allowed JobsOhio to meet in near secret, and exempted them from portions of state public records law.

The plan was made even worse in 2012, when additional loopholes were proposed that further shielded JobsOhio from the public eye. After backlash from public records advocates, including many Ohio newspapers and the ACLU, the new legislation was revised. However, this revision did nothing address the fundamental lack of transparency built into the original JobsOhio plan.

In 2013, a new controversy erupted over whether the state auditor has the authority to audit JobsOhio’s financial records. Click here to learn more this controversy and what’s at stake with JobsOhio.

State ex rel. ACLU of Ohio v. Cuyahoga County

In April 2010, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to require Cuyahoga County transition committees to comply with Sunshine Laws. The ACLU sent a public records request to the county for transition records, but …

In April 2010, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to require Cuyahoga County transition committees to comply with Sunshine Laws. The ACLU sent a public records request to the county for transition records, but the county claimed that the Sunshine Laws do not apply to the committees and refused to turn over those records. Read the press release announcing the suit.

On February 16, 2011, the Court ruled that the transition committees did not have to abide by state public records laws, and found they were private entities. Read the ACLU’s press release and the Court’s decision here.

State ex rel. Bardwell v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners

On November 5, 2009, the ACLU of Ohio announced it would provide legal representation to community activist Brian Bardwell. Bardwell previously requested records detailing the Medical Mart project in Cuyahoga County. When …

On November 5, 2009, the ACLU of Ohio announced it would provide legal representation to community activist Brian Bardwell. Bardwell previously requested records detailing the Medical Mart project in Cuyahoga County. When part of his request was denied, Bardwell filed suit, representing himself.

The Eighth District Court of Appeals chastised Bardwell for filing too many lawsuits to enforce public records requests, even though the law contains no limit. The court fined him $1,000 for filing the lawsuit and warned they might bar him from filing future lawsuits. The ACLU of Ohio has appealed his case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

On October 26, 2010 the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision on the groups that there was not enough evidence to show it abused its discretion. Read the ACLU’s press release on the case and the Court’s decision here.

Federal laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, and state laws like Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings acts, were designed to promote citizen involvement and government accountability. Transparency allows for increased public awareness of government functions and actions, a higher level of efficiency and accountability, and a deeper sense of trust between leadership and the community.

The “State Secrets” Doctrine

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has embraced many Bush-era policies including the “State Secrets” Doctrine, which it has used to try to block lawsuits that question government action.

In September 2010, The Ninth Circuit granted the government’s motion to dismiss in a …

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has embraced many Bush-era policies including the “State Secrets” Doctrine, which it has used to try to block lawsuits that question government action.

Read more about the ACLU’s efforts to fight post-9/11 government secrecy.