BGSU Firelands offers public officials training

Keeping secrets. Ignoring others. Throwing tantrums. Perfect descriptions for teenagers caught up in their own little world in high school. But sadly, these are also spot-on characteristics of some officials in 2012.
Andy Ouriel
Jan 2, 2013

With BGSU Firelands hosting a training academy on leadership and good governance, aimed specifically at public officials, the Register compiled a list of area representatives who might find the program beneficial. (Read more about the BGSU Firelands program in Wednesday's Register.)

 

Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer

Overmyer dodged legitimate questions and ignored public records requests relating to a January 2012 incident, in which county jail guards allegedly exploited a naked, schizophrenic inmate who was locked in a jail cell.

Overmyer eventually fired two of the jail guards involved, and a third resigned.

 

Willard police Chief Mark Holden; former law director David Harwood; law director Eric Weisenberger

When 16-year-old Michael Mason was arrested in Willard for allegedly shooting his mother, Holden and Harwood refused to release police reports detailing a hit list the boy created. Michael's mother survived. Willard officials long maintained their steely grip on any information in the case.

Since then, they've continued to dodge public records requests.

When a police officer shot a woman in the foot during a drug raid in Willard recently, Holden was on vacation.

Weisenberger didn't return numerous phone messages seeking public records, and the police department failed to release a report on the incident.

 

Sandusky attorney Marc Fishel and city manager Nicole Ard

With Ard's approval, Fishel released heavily redacted documents detailing an alleged love triangle involving two city police officers and a commander's wife this past spring. When asked why he blacked out the information, Fishel couldn't recall exactly why he made the redactions. He also couldn't say which specific sections of state law allowed him to withhold the information.

 

Sandusky County coroner John Wukie

In March, Wukie originally ruled 19-year-old Jacob Limberios' death a suicide. But major inconsistencies in witness statements led others to believe differently.It then took Wukie nine months to order a coroner's inquiry into Limberios' death. And that came only after the family hired an attorney and sued Sandusky County.

 

Perkins Township attorney John Coppeler and trustees Tim Coleman, Jeff Ferrell and Mike Printy

Coppeler refused to release an internal report on an incident involving an on-duty officer who provided an off-duty officer a ride home after a night of drinking on
Thanksgiving morning.

Trustees agreed wholeheartedly with Coppeler's decision.

The off-duty officer -- Kate Barker, who has since been fired -- had allegedly been drinking before Officer Tim Alexander pulled over her vehicle.

When the Register tried to figure out why the township wouldn't release the investigative report, Coppeler didn't return reporters' phone calls.

For their part, trustees deferred to his legal advice.

It's not the first time Coppeler and trustees opted for a "hold-your-horses" approach to public records requests.
 

Comments

onegirlarmy

there's corruption everywhere

There you go again

Not to mention the Huron City School debacle over the superintendent.

Clark W

Another unprofessional article, by an unprofessional reporter.
I can't decide if this is a case of the reporter trying to be a bully, or is throwing a tantrum because he can't have something the second he wants it.

I'm willing to bet that the information would be made public, as soon as feasibly and appropriately possible.
Personally, I don't mind waiting a day or two for the story, complete with all relevant information.
Instead, we get stories from a reporter who seems to be content to "whine" about not getting the information before it's prudent to release it.

Perhaps the reporter should attend the public records course. He may learn a thing or two.
By the way---I've attended previous public records seminars, so I know the rules.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the comment Clark W. It's fine if you prefer waiting "a day or two" for a public record. As a member of the public you're entitled to make a request and wait as long as you want. But the law is very clear on these issues, and it's not a matter of a day or two with the public officials cited in this article; in some instances it is weeks or months, or never.

Our job is to get the information and to hold public officials accountable for properly responding to legitimate requests for information, as dictated by the Ohio Revised Code. If we didn't do this, chances are the information won't ever be made available to the public.

Reporters and editors at the Register are trained in public records law and we rely on experts to guide us when there is a question regarding compliance, or non-compliance. I know some times it seems like we're being demanding, and we are, but never unreasonably so. 

Please be sure to get a copy of Thursday's Register for an update on the Willard case in which an officer accidentally shot a woman in the foot Dec. 19. It's been two weeks, but police still have not released a report about the shooting or the name of the officer(s) involved. When an officer is involved in a shooting it's appropriate that information about that shooting be fully disclosed in a timely manner.

Please feel free to call me directly at 419-609-5866 if you would like to discuss the specifics in more detail. Thanks again for commenting at sanduskyregister.com. 

 

 

donutshopguy

Matt,

What about the housing scandal in Sandusky ? Have you and the paper forgotten about this multi million dollar fiasco? Have you lost interest? Why has this subject been forgotten?

Matt Westerhold

Thanks donutshopguy for the question. This is a perfect example. We were told for months, years now, that there was a federal investigation. It seems obvious, at this point -- it has been nearly six years or more since the housing grant money was stolen -- that there never was a federal investigation beyond recovering the money and penalizing the city for mismanaging the grant program.

There also never was any intention or effort by local officials, police and prosecutors to hold anyone accountable for the loss of up to about $4 million. We haven't lost interest. The subject has not been forgotten. We have beat that horse, however, and I'm not sure it will serve any purpose to beat it any more. But can you imagine how far $4 million would go toward improving the housing stock in the city? Instead it went into the pockets of ... who knows? And city officials are content. 

And, if the Register had not put that story on the front page -- all those years ago -- the homeowners who got ripped off (about 60, if I am recalling that number correctly) would never have been compensated for their losses. Some of them were literally forced out of their homes due to the shoddy work performed by city-approved contractors and for years they could not even get a return call from city officials when they complained.  

If I'm recalling correctly, Sandusky city commissioner Julie Farrar praised city officials when the repairs were finally made after the damages were exposed in a series of stories in the Register, saying the city was not required to make the repairs. I cannot recall Farrar, or any other city official, ever making a demand that there be any accountability for the loss of $4 million in opportunity funds. It still amazes me.    

Centauri

@ Matt,

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/1345.02
"3) The attorney general may initiate criminal proceedings for a prosecution under division (C) of section 1345.99 of the Revised Code by presenting evidence of criminal violations to the prosecuting attorney of any county in which the offense may be prosecuted. If the prosecuting attorney does not prosecute the violations, or at the request of the prosecuting attorney, the attorney general may proceed in the prosecution with all the rights, privileges, and powers conferred by law on prosecuting attorneys, including the power to appear before grand juries and to interrogate witnesses before grand juries."

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...
"The federal government sought to recoup loans used to pay for the shoddy and many unnecessary jobs, and the city spent more than $1.4 million to repair the damages.

Sanctions imposed by the federal government in the city's eligibility for CHIP grants in 2011, 2012 and next year also amounted the hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to the city."

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...
"The city contracted Mike Murman and Associates to conduct an investigation."

My questions are why does the city always hire a private law firm? Why didn't Baxter call in the Ohio Attorney General or other state agency?

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...

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Julie R.

The city contracted Murman and Associates to conduct the investigation into the housing scandal? I never knew that. Murman & Associates were also the ones that were contracted by the city to come up with that idiot report in the Kim Nuesse case, too, weren't they?

Ever notice how Erie County always seems to use the same Lorain and Cuyahoga County law firms in all their shady cases? Same with their most popular retired rent-a-judges --- they hail from the Lorain and Cuyahoga County area, too.

Clark W

Mr. Westerhold,

You seem to think that you and your staff are the only ones trained in public records law. I believe you said Register staff expertise is public records law (Sunday's editorial).
You are not the only ones trained, and if you are trained, you and your staff either missed parts of the training, don't understand it or just try to twist it to meet your needs.

I've been to public records training. I have an official document proving that I successfully completed the course.
Can you and/or your staff produce identical documentation?

There is nothing that says that a public records need to be turned over immediately upon request.
While sometimes it does happen, a reasonable amount of time (up to 72 hours) is the standard.
And you know, or should know that records related to an active or ongoing investigation are not subject to a public records request. Of course, they are to be made public once the investigation is complete.

There's nothing wrong with investigative reporting. It's necessary, and when done properly, to be lauded.
Tattling when you don't get what you want the exact moment you request it is unprofessional, and downright childish.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the comment Clark W. It's good when residents become familiar with the public records law. You might consider getting a copy of "Access With Attitude, An Advocate's Guide to Freedom of Information in Ohio," written by attorney David Marburger with the Baker Hostetler law firm in Cleveland. The Register staff has worked for years with attorney Marburger, who by reputation is one of the top attorneys in the country in this field. 

Journalists are trained from the beginning of journalism school in the importance of public records, and working through the processes daily with multiple government agencies over years certainly provides a wealth of experience beyond that initial training.

In addition, working with experts, whether that's through the Ohio Newspaper Association, private attorneys or attorneys like Marburger who are schooled on this exact topic with hundreds, if not thousands of court case experience specific to this topic also is helpful.

Register reporters and editors also are fully aware of the "reasonable" time frame the state law allows for response to public records requests, and we always observe that reasonableness. There are, however, instances in which a public record that is readily available should be supplied immediately upon request. And once a report is filed, it is a public record unless there is a specific exemption in the Ohio Revised Code that precludes its release, at which point a public official need only to cite that exemption to be in compliance. Not citing the exemption, and not responding to a request are not appropriate options, according to the ORC.

As members of the public, reporters are trained not to accept non-responses, or responses that are not accurate to the requirements of the ORC, from public officials. I'm not sure how you came to be under the impression the Register is demanding instant access, but you are not correct in assuming that.

I hope this is helpful, but if you'd like to discuss any specific concerns you can write me at westerhold@sanduskyregister.com, or call me at 419-609-5866. Thanks again for commenting at sanduskyregister.com.  

Clark W

Mr. Westerhold,

I will try to secure a copy of Access with an Attitude.
I just have two more questions...Are you saying that Register reporters/editors cannot produce certification of public records training, but instead are relying on outside counsel?
You claim to be experts in public records...Did you or reporters attend official training sessions, and if not, do you and/or your reporters plan to attend such training?
As far as demanding instant access, that's the impression given in many stories. Given your position, I'm sure it's difficult for you to see that.

Centauri

@ Clark, You can preview parts of Marburger's book here:
http://books.google.com/books?id...

Centauri

@ Matt and all SR readers. Stay tuned to my latest comment about Marburger's book. Check for my latest comments on this news article. Why in corrupt Ohio do judges go after those who request public records? Is there a law that states the number of public records one can request? How about when the powers that be need all information about you and why you want a particular public record before they release the records? How about hidden public records that exist but the powers that be hide them from view?

John Harville

@Clark. Then, you're not in the Contango Congregation that wanted clear details within hours about an attadk on an American mission in Libya?
And then there's Sandy Hook - where almost all the immediate information was proven wrong and caused a lot of heartache and backtracking.
In the Overmyer case, a jury ruled the punishment did not fit the act... and the county compensated two of the three.
Waiting a coupla days is not a problem as long as the reporter keeps asking.
The loser in the Overmyer situation is the woman.

Clark W

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained A duplicate post.

Swamp Fox

Article could be titled, "Public Officials that don't kiss up to The Register Management."

John Harville

Ya know Swamp, the Media can't win with you guys. If the media doesn't press the issue, you complain because it's taking so long (Benghazi).
If the media report on comments of officials who then back away from their comments, somehow the Media got it wrong.
If the media doen't press the issue, research information on their own and raise more questions or report the new information, then the media is participating in a coverup.

Swamp Fox

John Harville, the problem is that the management of the newspaper picks and choose who they press on public records. Other public officials use this newspaper as their official press release source and are given only positive press coverage.

proud mother of 3

Just a handful of corrupted Huron County officials, there are definitely more that should have been listed. Not surprised to see Willard PD on here, however Huron Cty Sherrifs office should have also been listed!

SamAdams

While there are some things here that do sound fishy, there's one where it may be officials did exactly what they're supposed to do. That's the case of the 16 year-old accused of shooting his mother. Unless the 16 year-old is bound over for trial as an adult, everything about the matter is held sealed because of his juvenile status. Since there's nothing here to suggest the boy is anything (legally speaking) but a boy, the officials did the right thing there.

As far as I'm concerned, ALL public officials should be required to attend such courses on a regular basis. Too many of them don't know the law; another significant percentage know the law and just don't care. Whether they're caught up in their own sense of importance or they just can't be bothered is immaterial. The law is the law, and since they are supposed to represent the law, they'd best adhere to it!

dont blame me

Kudos’ to the Sandusky Register and it’s staff for exposing the incompetent and sometimes dishonest behavior of our public officials. If it were not for your relentless pursuit for the truth many of these issue would have remained hidden under the carpet where they swept it. Keep digging they’re hiding a lot more from you.

John Harville

Sometimes the local medium chooses to overlook facts that seem to be blatantly clear - and then Todd Helms takes the fall for other Clyde-Green Springs official.
Just like prosecutors can 'selectively prosecute' crimes, news media can selectively chooose what to report. Crime sells and the public buys. There are a multitude of good features that could be reported/photographed/commented upon. But be honest... would you buy the newspaper for that kind of news? Doubt it.

reader

?

luvblues2

Why should the Register pay for what these people should already be doing for themselves? You call yourself a "reader" but you really show no signs of doing so.

reader

.

luvblues2

Then show me. Just saying so, means nothing.

KURTje

Hey listen. Sadly this has been going on for years. Now it is only worse. Most in authority are driven by ego, not a valid need to serve.

donutshopguy

kURTje,

You hit the nail on the head. They may start out with great intentions but power usually corrupts public servants. Of course it helps to have a "good old boy network" to cover up your missteps.

Kayleigh.Bowers

couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game
-bob dyland

bmgasser

I'm only speaking in regards to the Limberios case, but I think the Register has done a fantastic job revealing the corruption of misinformation (mostly due to the findings of the Limberios family and lawyer Mcgookey) given and withheld by Sandusky county officials. However I would've liked to of seen other officials along with coroner Wukie mentioned in this highlight article. Speaking of public records, the family has requested for the legal access of documented information from Bill Kaisers investigation (hired by prosecutor Tom Stierwalt), which has yet to be granted. Too bad for that whole gang, their incompetence may result in accessory to murder. Not to mention sheriff Meggitt deceitfully gave the family an incomplete "final report" from his investigation. Also prosecutor Stierwalt did a heck of job not responding to phone calls from the family for over a month. Counting down the days before that county is forced to clean house.

bmgasser

Kayleigh couldn't have said it any better. Or should I say Bobby D

Gardenman

The public records law is what it is and it's clear on what public officials much do. In the examples cited in this article it is clear that some of these people clearly were not going to supply the information to the public regardless the law. That kind of disregard for the law can and should not be tolerated.

If there is a genuine reason the records can not be given at the moment and they are honest in what that can ot happen I believe that is accpeted. BUT when its total "I will not do it no matter what the law says" then I am fine with them being publicaly scolded in the press and legal actions begun to cite them for not following the law. To do anything less means why even have the law if its not repected by our public "servants."

mstacy

In regards to the Limberios case, the Register has been a staunch supporter for the TRUTH. They have brought to light the inept actions of Sandusky County Officials and the family’s quest to solve their son’s murder. While the family and friends of Jacob continue efforts to drudge through the shambles left behind by Sandusky attempts (NOT ONE OR TWO, BUT THREE!), Sandusky County Officials (Wukie, Overmyer, Meggitt, Kaiser and Stierwalt) still have yet to release documents requested by the family. Enough is enough! It is high time everyone involved in this case answer for their actions or should I say in-actions. Today it has been 10 months, since we have first sought answers of what happened that tragic night. The house of cards they have built and is now tumbling down around themselves.

reader

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safecracker2

Matt: Please cite the section of the law you are referring to which requires them to disclose information during a criminal investigation and personnel issues with government employees, along with the time frame they are to disclose it. Thanks in advance for your response.

luvblues2

Why does the Register have to be your Google? Look it up yourself.

Here is a place to start:

http://oc.course.com/illustrated...

Centauri

Thank you for the link to the internet searches. That is a nice list to find just about anything on the internet. People need to put the link into their favorites.

luvblues2

No problem, Centauri. You may find some of those links outdated but, as I stated, it's a good start.

Diane Schaefer

I think Safecracker's question was meant to be retorical since there are no sections that specifically address these issues. Ongoing investigations are exempt. So are the addresses, personal information for emergency personnel (police and fire) unless the media follows very detailed procedures. Time frame - reasonable. What is reasonable depends on a number of things such as the form of the public records, where they are stored, whether they need to be redacted (confidential information deleted,like SSN, addresses, etc.)

Julie R.

Remember what the Cuyahoga County crook Frank Russo said? He said the only time Dimora and him ever worried about getting caught is when the reporters from the Plain Dealer came snooping around asking too many questions and requesting public records. Didn't he say that's when they got busy shredding the records?

donutshopguy

The requirement of supplying public records to a newspaper is a check and balance accountability for our public officials.

Now, in today's day and age, who is the check and balance on the media and their sometime misuse of power?

Diane Schaefer

I totally agree with this. The media will sometimes use the denial of public records when they cannot get all the information for their deadlines.

Then at other times they will just take information (?) received from a "confidential source" to print an article without verifying the information. Then after the fact, when they do verify the information and find out what they were told may not have been totally factual there is no followup report saying that.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks for the comment Diane. Would it be possible for you to cite an example concerning the use of a 'confidential source' for an article when the information was not verified? You can email me at westerhold@sanduskyregister.com, or call me at 419-609-5866. 

Diane Schaefer

Two articles come to mind. The Curtis claim is one. The other was the article about how much compensation I had received for building fees.

Darkhorse

The Cuyahoga County case will go down in the history books. So many people were involved from judges to county staff and it went on for years until some top notch newspaper reporter cracked the whole thing open. It is why entities don't like the reporters because they are always asking questions and requesting documents. They call the newspaper negative and the entity will put a guilt trip on the paper. They will even get up a campaign against the paper to make them back off. The paper works on behalf of the people in the community to make sure accountability exist. You can call it negativity but I call it accountability.

Julie R.

If the first class is going to be about ethics, I do so believe there's a couple of courts at the Erie County courthouse that might benefit from that class, too. I know quite a few attorneys that for sure should also be attending. For some odd reason when it comes to Erie County attorneys seem to laugh at the 1st Rule for Professional Conduct:

"An attorney may not engage in any conduct involving FRAUD, dishonesty, and deceit."

Centauri

http://www.sanduskyregister.com/...
"It's none of your business," Cirigliano told a reporter when asked how the city's hired attorney, Margaret Cannon, assisted him in writing the opinion, which stated that Nuesse's termination was justified. "You're not entitled to know everything."

http://www.americanbar.org/group...
"(f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law."

http://www.lawlessamerica.com/in...
"How Attorneys Violate the Rules, Commit Fraud Upon the Court, and Corrupt the Legal Process"

thumbs up

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

Julie R.

I heard the new judge in Huron is a good judge -- very honest and ethical. I enjoy his articles in the Huron Hometown News. One of his recent ones was something about how attorneys and judges are supposed to take classes or something every couple of years that deal with ethics and professionalism in the courts.

I was tempted to cut it out and send it to the Erie County courthouse.

Diane Schaefer

The BGSU course sounds much more than a class in Public Records. It is a leadership class, very similar to the one they provided to Perkins Township after charges were levied by the building official against the Fiscal Officer (me). Cost to the Township was over $10,000.

Was the training worth it? Yes, it helped identify other types of personalities and how to deal with them, what motivates them, how they process things.

IMO in the end the identity of the person causing the problem at the Township was identified.

Diane Schaefer

Finally even when the public record information is provided, it is not reported correctly. Specifically, the sale of the Perkins Township building on Milan Road. There are been at least 2 articles in recent months that show that Perkins Township received $1.65 million in 2010 from the sale of the building to FRMC.

In my report provided to the SR reporter Andy Ouriel in Januay 2012 it showed that Perkins received $1.5 million from the sale in 2010. Then in 2011 the Township received in kind services from FRMC valued at $17,416.90 as of 12-27-11. The amount for 2011 actually was $19,266.30.

The sale agreement was for $1.5 million cash and $30,000 per year of services for each of the next five years with no rollovers. In other words use it or loss it. Now this was explained to Ouriel on more than one occasion. How can you show $150,000 that you may not receive; and even if you do will not receive its benefit totally until 2015?

The other figure I question is the Other one time source of $240,000. Should not that amount be itemized similar to others as small of $1,800? And when was this received? It wasn't included in my report of January 2012.