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Auditor Yost Calls for Greater Accountability with Public Records Requests
Monday, March 14, 2011
Auditor Yost announced his plans at a press conference today at the Statehouse in connection with national “Sunshine Week.”
“I find it surprising that we have laws covering the what, when and how of releasing public records, but there is no regular follow-up to ensure records have been released properly,” Auditor Yost said. “We need to address this flaw in the system. My office will provide agencies with recommended procedures to best track public records requests, and we will spot check for timeliness and accuracy of record releases.”
The Auditor of State is recommending as a best practice that state and local governments maintain a log of all public records requests received by their office. This log should include date of request, name of person or entity requesting information (if provided), records requested, records released, date of release and the legal authority for any redactions or exemptions. Public agencies also should retain copies of the records released.
Beginning with the audit year ending December 31, 2012 for audits conducted in 2013, the Auditor of State’s office will review the public records request logs and related copies from a sampling of governments. Legal staff will be checking for compliance in timeliness, accuracy and appropriate use of redactions and exemptions. Non-compliance and recommendations for improvements will be brought to management’s attention.
Currently, the Auditor of State’s office periodically checks an agency’s public records policy and verifies whether elected officials or their appropriate designees have completed public records training for each term of office.
The Auditor of State’s Open Government Unit offers certified public records training four times a year. The next scheduled training is set for April 12, 2011 in Columbus.
The Auditor of State is one of five independently elected offices under the Ohio Constitution. Auditor Yost’s office is responsible for auditing over 5,600 state and local government agencies. Staff also works in partnership with state and local governments to deal effectively with financial, accounting and budgetary issues.