My topic this week is the Public Records Volunteer Mediation Program.
I ran across an announcement from the Ohio Attorney General’s office stating that they have implemented a Volunteer Mediation Program for reporters and citizens who are having difficulty obtaining public records.
In the past, the citizen’s only recourse for not obtaining a document was to hire a lawyer and take the dispute to court. The entity is fully aware how expensive it can get for the requester to take them to court. Most of the time, it never goes to court because of the cost involved and the request for documents is never fulfilled.
The free program has been set up by the Attorney General’s office to assist the requester by mediating the disputes. All you have to do is call the Ohio Attorney General’s Public Records Unit (1-898-958-5088) or go to www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov to file your complaint. The unit will contact the entity’s attorney by setting up a three-way conference call to mediate the dispute between the parties before it becomes a lawsuit. The program may provide the reality check necessary for either the requester or the public office to bring their approach more in line with the law and move toward resolving the dispute.
It is comforting to know that there is an alternative to solving disputes without any direct cost to the requester. The program is a great tool to use when the entity becomes downright stubborn in handing over the records. It seems the Attorney General’s office is trying to educate and promote more awareness that public records belong to the public unless restricted by law.
Until next week, I hope the information has been informative. Most of the time, the entity will not produce a legal reason for not handing over the document, but they will give you excuses and delays and that is when you can consult with the Attorney General’s office for assistance.