It is the policy of the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors (Board) that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of this Board to strictly adhere to the state of Ohio’s Public Records Act. All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense and any denial of public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. If the request for public records is in writing, the explanation of denial must also be in writing.
Section 1. Definition
This Board, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document — paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, email), or other format — that is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. All records of this Board are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code.
Section 1.1 Organization and Maintenance
It is the policy of this Board that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying (See Section 4 for the email record policy.). Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and posted prominently.
Section 2. Evaluation of a Public Records Request
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:
Section 2.1 Identification of Public Records Requested
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the office keeps its records.
Section 2.2 Method of Public Records Request and Identity of Requestor
The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is this Board’s general policy that this information is not to be requested.
Section 2.3 Availability of Public Records for Inspection and Production of Copies
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested, the proximity of the location where the records are stored, and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.
Section 2.4 Time Constraints for Satisfying Public Records Requests
Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records. If feasible, routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, etc. If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be emailed or downloaded easily, these should be made as quickly as the equipment allows.
All requests for public records must either be satisfied or be acknowledged in writing by a public office within three business days following the office’s receipt of the request. If a request will not be satisfied within three business days, the acknowledgement must include at least the following:
- A request for clarification (if necessary).
- An estimated cost if copies are requested.
Section 2.5 Denial of Public Records Requests
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
Costs for Obtaining Copies of Public Records
Section 3. Charges for Copies and Postage
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies, as follows:
The charge for paper copies is $0.05 per page.
The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc is $1.00 per disc.
There is no charge for documents emailed.
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.
Email as Public Records
Section 4. Definition of Email as Public Records
Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. Email is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
Section 4.1 Private Email Accounts Holding Public Records
Records in private email accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all employees or representatives of the Board are instructed to retain their emails that relate to public business (see Section 1 Public Records) and to copy them to their business email accounts and/or to the Board’s records custodian.
Section 4.2 Duties of the Records Custodian in Managing Private Account Emails
The records custodian is to treat the emails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the state of Ohio Public Records Act.
Failure to Respond to a Public Records Request
Section 5. Legal and Non-Legal Consequences
The Board recognizes the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request. In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, failure to comply may also result in a court ordering the public office to comply with the law and to pay the requester’s attorney’s fees and damages.