When I asked the Ohio Highway Patrol for public records on investigations into trooper misconduct, the patrol responded promptly and handled the matter in a professional manner.
I sent my initial request via email on March 7 to Lt. Anne Ralston, a patrol spokeswoman stationed in Columbus, asking for any records that may exist for the past five years (2009-2013) on internal investigations of Ohio Highway Patrol troopers for misconduct. I asked if I could have the documents on March 14.
Ralston replied the same day, acknowledging the request and asking for clarification on one point.
On March 19, Ralston emailed me an attached PDF document on highway patrol investigations from 2009 to 2013. The 5.1 MB document, if printed, would have come out to 1,063 pages. The file included thousands of cases, including 1,056 incidents in 2009 alone. I did not notice any redactions.
When I went through it, I noticed that there were several interesting local (i.e., Sandusky area) cases, so without bothering to invoke the public records law, I asked Ralston if I could obtain reports on the individual cases. She said yes and told me to please list the case numbers.
I sent a request on April 6 for six reports. On April 14, I received back a file containing the six reports. Some of the reports had very minor redactions relating to routine privacy matters but the reports essentially were intact.
Some readers may be interested in contrasting my experience with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, a state agency, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA on Jan. 16, 2013, asking for emails that would shed light on the decision by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson not to visit Clyde, after all, to meet with families affected by the Clyde Cancer Cluster. Jackson has promised to do so but left office without keeping the pledge.
My inquiries to the EPA during 2013 about the FOIA request did not receive a reply.
I received my documents on March 18 this year after yet another inquiry. However, the documents were heavily redacted to the point where they had little useful information. (The redacted documents may be viewed at www.sanduskyregister.com/article/golden-children/5455756.)
The EPA even redacted part of a sentence in an email I sent to EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson. In the redacted sentence, I'd asked when Jackson would be making her visit.
I filed an appeal to the EPA protesting the redactions on April 2 (with the help of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.) I have not yet received a ruling on my appeal.