Ohio Launches New FOI Mediation Service

Citizens having problems getting public records from government agencies can now turn to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for a new forum to resolve the dispute.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced the formation of a public records mediation program.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Public Records Mediation Program, which will be overseen by lawyers in the AG’s public records unit, is aimed at resolving disputes over public records requests that are alleged to have been improperly denied or not responded to in a reasonable amount of time.

“Frankly, what we are trying to do is speed things up, save taxpayers’ money and get the people who want the information the actual information they want,” said DeWine in a phone interview. “Many times a request comes in and it’s a very broad request and the government entity is faced with denying the request or spending a ton of time and money trying to gather the records. We think a lot of these can get worked out, so that’s why we are doing it.”

Both parties must agree to enter into the mediation program and the person requesting the mediation retains the right to sue under Ohio’s open records law.

While DeWine couldn’t put a timeframe on how quickly a typical case would be resolved, he said speed would be of the essence.

“I told our team we should only do this if we can do it quickly. Our intention is to jump on this right away as most of these cases aren’t horribly complex and the legal issues aren’t horribly complex.”

A spokesman for DeWine said the goal would be to get an answer about whether both parties in a dispute would accept mediation within 10 days of the initial complaint.

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