Several notable changes to Ohio’s Public Records law went into effect last year.

As a refresher, Ohio law mandates the disclosure of public records unless an exception applies. The Public Records Act includes numerous exceptions to the definitions of public records which permits officials to redact records, or in some instances withhold records entirely. The recent amendments to Ohio’s Public Records Act and other related laws include new exceptions permitting additional redactions.

The amendments expanded the definition of a designated public service worker. Individuals covered by the designated public service worker exception now include Ohio National Guard members, protective services workers, emergency service telecommunicators, forensic mental health providers, mental health evaluation providers, and regional psychiatric hospital employees. These positions are now covered under the definition of a designated public service worker, in addition to the existing protections for peace officers, EMTs, and other positions included in R.C. 149.43(A)(7). This change is important because the Public Records Act explicitly excludes residential and familial information of designated public service workers from disclosure. Residential and familial information can include, but is not limited to, their home addresses, emergency contact numbers of the employee’s spouse or children, and banking information. Accordingly, this information should be redacted from a public record before disclosure.

Additionally, House Bill 99, which creates Ohio’s new program permitting teachers to carry firearms, adds a specific exemption to Ohio’s Public Records law. The bill requires each school district or governing body to maintain a list of personnel who are trained and qualified to carry a firearm. However, the bill explicitly exempts this list from the definition of a public record. Therefore, if this list is requested, it may be withheld in its entirety.

The attorneys at Fishel Downey regularly advise public agencies and officials on issues related to compliance with Ohio’s Public Records Law. If you have a specific question or scenario, and would like assistance, contact one of the attorneys at Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff LLP at 614-221-1216.