Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ohio Public Records Act Clarified, Limited

The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ruled that “private entities are not subject to the Public Records Act absent a showing by clear & convincing evidence that that entity is a functional equivalent of a public office.” (Opinion)

The decision both limits & clarifies the use of Ohio’s public records act, having broader implications as an update to open records law governing privately-run agencies receiving tax dollars. Justice Paul Pfeifer, in the majority opinion, said “a private business does not open its records to public scrutiny merely by performing services on behalf of the state or a municipal government.”

On the other hand, in determining whether a private entity is a public institution, and thus a public office for the purposes of public record requirements, some jurisdictions have developed functional- equivalency tests and courts have come to consider exhaustive lists of factors, including whether the entity performs a governmental function, the level of governmental funding given that institution, and whether the entity was created another governmental body.

In dissenting with the majority opinion, Chief Justice Moyer pointed out that in the current case the entity in question received 88 percent of its funding from public sources.

(Ohio Public Records Act)

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