It's public or it isn't

The Erie County Sheriff's Office and the County Prosecutor's Office should quit playing fast and loose with their responsibilities u
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

The Erie County Sheriff's Office and the County Prosecutor's Office should quit playing fast and loose with their responsibilities under the state's concealed carry law.

The legislation, approved in 2004, allows Ohioans to apply for permits to carry concealed weapons and grants the authority to issue those permits to the sheriffs' offices across the state.

When they approved the CCW law, state legislators included wording that exempted the application paperwork and the names of permit holders from the state's public records laws. Lawmakers in Columbus compounded that bone-headed move with a second bone-headed decision: Even though the information was to be kept secret from the public, the sheriffs are required under the law to release the names of permit-holders to journalists who request the information.

Adding insult to injury and shading the sunshine further with regards to freedom of information, the CCW law prohibits journalists from publishing the information if they do they receive it.

Stupid is as stupid does, and now Erie County Sheriff Terry Lyons and Assistant County Prosecutor Sandy Rubino are mucking up the bad legislation evenfurther by playing dumb.

In a lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court, Rubino contends the sheriff just can't be sure what to do when a journalist asks for the information. Judge Tygh Tone should toss this lawsuit out.

Lyons and Rubino want Tone to determine whether obeying the law is the right thing to do, which seems like a no-brainer to us. Lyons should release the names as he is required to do and fulfill the request for the information that has been made by the Register and by other newspapers.

Yes, the law was poorly written but it is still clear on one point: The information is to be made available to journalists when requested.

And state lawmakers should hang their heads in shame for approving language in the law that keeps public information secret, and take immediate steps to correct this flaw.