What is a public record?

RC 149.43(A)(1) defines a public record as "records kept by any public office including any state, county, city, village, township, and school district units, and records pertaining to the delivery of educational services by an alternative school in this state kept by the nonprofit or for-profit entity operating the alternative school." A record is defined in RC 149.011 (G) to include "any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including electronic records."

Are we required to disclose information kept in an employee's personnel file?

Generally, the personnel files of a public office employee are considered public records. This also may include personnel records kept of a former employee. However, if any item contained in the file does not meet the definition a "record" of the office, or is subject to an exception, the district may not be required to disclose the record. Additionally, districts do not have to create a record that does not exist in order to respond to a public records request.

What information is exempt from being disclosed?

RC 149.43 (A)(1) requires certain items to be redacted before properly responding to a public records request. Items that must be redacted include, but are not limited to, criminal record checks, medical records, personally identifiable student information from education records, records the release of which is prohibited by state or federal law, and social security numbers. The State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publishing Company et al., v. City of Akron et al., 70 Ohio St. 3d 605,1994-Ohio-6.

There is also case law that suggests that the home addresses of school employees are not "public records" that must be disclosed. In The State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Company et al., v. Johnson, Dir.,et. al, 106 Ohio St. 3d 160, 2005-Ohio-4384, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that state employee home addresses are generally not public records when they do not serve to document the actions, operations or procedures of the public office.

If information has been redacted, the public office must inform the requester of the redaction or make the redacted information clearly visible. Board counsel can assist the district in identifying and making redactions.

Is a copy of a W-2 form a public record?

Probably. In advisory opinion 92-005 (1992 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 005), a federal income tax form W-2 "prepared and maintained" by an Ohio township acting in the capacity of an employer was considered to be a public record. As noted above, before responding to a public records request certain information must be redacted.

Posted by Candice Christon on 6/29/2012