Port Clinton police practice censorship

Jun 18, 2013


When it comes to releasing public information state law prohibits public officials from picking and choosing which documents to release. 

But some public attorneys and some law enforcement leaders don't seem to understand the responsibilities they have or they are misinterpreting their duties under the law. We don't like to think any public official would intentionally circumvent, or willfully violate the Ohio Revised Code, especially that part of government — police and municipal law directors — assigned to enforce the law. 

It seems, however, that willful obliviousness of the rules does occur.  

Port Clinton police chief Rob Hickman refuses to comply with simple and lawful requests for public documents, insisting that he be allowed to use Facebook to censor the information arbitrarily and without explanation. State law allows for some censorship, but the process is spelled out and specific as to what reasons and what explanations are required. The Ohio Revised Code also spells out specifically the steps that must be taken to withhold public records. 

Hickman is skipping every step the law requires, and Port Clinton law director George Wilber has offered no solutions. He's giving tacit approval to Hickman's censorship decisions through his inaction and has offered no explanation why state law is being ignored.  

The actions and responses from Hickman and Wilbur seem to be an obvious and blatant disregard of state law. Improper censorship by public officials is a practice that demands attention. 

The public records mediation service of the Ohio Attorney General's office has been asked to review Hickman's censorship decisions. We hope the AG's office addresses it swiftly and instructs both Hickman and Wilber to either justify the censorship according to the law, or cease censoring public information.



Well nobody in Port Clinton seems to care so tough kitty paws.


Persistence is the name of the game. After trying to work with the entity, the Register has no choice but to take advantage of the new mediation of public records that the State has put into play. The State will set Port Clinto straight. Entities cannot think they are above the law and start making up their own rules. It is too bad it has to come to mediation. The Register is about to find out how effective the new mediation program is really performing. Sometimes examples need to be made as a teaching moment or to just bring the errogance level down a notch or two.


Are we still beating a dead horse here? It is unbelievable that this news agency is so lazy that it cannot simply request, in writing, the exact reports that it wants. I would have to do that exact thing if I wanted a copy of the same reports, and I would have to pay for the paper.

Again, it goes back to this news agency being lazy and not wanting to do grunt work. When you walk in to other local police departments they hand you a stack of reports to pilfer through. This is a choice by the department, not a legal requirement. This choice saves the department time and money because it doesn't have to burden a records clerk to pull up and print every single report, or worse by taking an Officer off of the streets to do it.

Just formally file your request with the department like I have to, and every other person has to. This whole thing seems like a sense of self entitlement because you are the Sandusky Register and you have a web site you can further your political agenda on.






Not worth the trouble.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks jhelle, but your comments are erroneous. The Freedom of Information Act is federal legislation and governs federal agencies. This and other information you are providing readers in this forum is inaccurate. Suggesting news reporters are 'lazy' for not taking steps they've already taken is an uninformed and gratuitis attack.

The Register is under no obligation to allow you to continue providing erroneous information or give you a platform for your uninformed attacks. Please review and observe the guidelines carefully and feel free to  call me at 419-609-5866 if you have concerns. 


Not even worth the trouble.



You can find that publication here if you are curious.

The Bizness

Everyone commenting on here should read page 12 of the above link...


B. Liabilities of the Public Office under the Public Records Act ...page 46


Sounds good Matt, start censoring your readers, so you can continue to promote your position. If you have an issue with the way PCPD does business take them to court. I, for one, would like to have someone other than you or the chief decide who is right. I suggest you take a stand and make your point. I don't want to sound over critical but you have little credibility among police supporters.


At the very least, you should meet the standard you demand by detailing precisely what points of jhelle's are inaccurate and substantiating it with relevant facts, or maybe just providing a little context in the original editorial.

To be clear, I agree with what this editorial SEEMS to be saying, but it takes way too many contextual shortcuts for most readers to make an informed judgement.


A "news" story about Port Clinton Censorship of the press where Westerhold threatens to censor forum accounts that dissagree with him.


The Register is under no obligation to allow you to continue providing erroneous information or give you a platform for your uninformed attacks. Please review and observe the guidelines carefully and feel free to call me at 419-609-5866 if you have concerns. The Register is under no obligation to allow you to continue providing erroneous information or give you a platform for your uninformed attacks. Please review and observe the guidelines carefully and you do whenever you print a story , Maybe in a round about whay , but still you are .
Matt , Stop and think about what you just wrote . You say that you dont , but any time you print a story regardless if its a complete story or not , or weather its bassed on half truths or whole truths , you are laying a platform


I live in PC and I care. I think people that committ crimes should be published in the paper and humiliated. I don't think it should be swept under the rug. I want to know if a felon lives next door or if a crime is being committed downtown. It should not matter that grandma was married to a former judge; her grandkids should be held accountable for their behavior. They should not get a free pass to break the law. There should not be special privileges for some; the rules should apply to everyone. Period.

Erie Countian

I agree that the PC Police Chief should follow the law, but yet I think the Register is already full enough with "police blotter" reports! Seems like my paper contains too many pages of this stuff already and not enough other content! It's fine to have SPD, PPD, HPD and the Erie County Sheriff's reports, but really, I do not need any from much more far afield than that! It's sickening enough to read all the disgusting and dismaying stuff that goes on right here in Erie County, even though it's good to know about it! Port Clinton has their own newspaper and I'm sure if they and the citizens of PC are not happy about their chief and this police blotter situation, they will do something about it! It's no wonder the Register didn't win it's "Top Newspaper in Ohio" award this year! They seem to be trying to fill up the pages of the paper with more and more police blotters! If you need more page filling content with out doing the work, Sandusky Register, why not expand your pathetic comic section or add some more nationally syndicated columnists or get more national and international news off the wire services? I feel my paper is shrinking down to police blotters, fluff pieces, and not a whole lot else!


I couldn't agree with your comment more. I'd rather read actual news, not about someone getting booted from a Salon over a bad hair cut. Some of the blotters don't even sound real. I'm waiting for a camera man to jump out and say "Got ya!"..


yea I agree with yea and one other things that I dont agree with , and this was during bike week , the register said they were having live updates , when they did not have them , The register needs to stop worry about what happens in the city and start making the paper clear and not misleading like it did during bike week


Where's Emil? I haven't noticed his byline lately.

Matt Westerhold

Emil has moved to Chicago with his wife and is working on a boat. His last day was in May. We're hoping to get him doing a blog here at sr.com about his new adventures. The Register's new police and breaking news reporter is Courtney Astolfi, who worked a a freelance writer before being hired full-time to replace Emil. 


Always enjoyed Emil. You lost a good one, Matt. He is/was a "brass tacks" kinda guy.


Sounds a lot like the city manager in sandusky, she doesn't feel she has to answer for wasting tax payers money, as limited as that is in that city, if I have to abide by the law THEY have to abide by it, like it or not!!

The Brownie Elf

Man, after all of this I hope these reports are worth it. I know, people are going to say that's not the point and it's the law, ect. But for entertainment and reading enjoyment, it better be a Port Clinton mafia ring with James Gandofini at the helm, a monster in Lake Erie or a serial killer.


Complete laziness, if there's no local Government there doing their jobs, how's this effecting the taxpayers?


The blotter is only there yo take up space because the register can't wrote a worth while article unless they are defaming people. But we can't defame the register they will block us and make us create a new email and register account!

Julie R.

So if that's your opinion of the Register, why did you even bother to create a new email and register account?


I can't speak for zach, Jules. Let's just say that some things are selective and who had pee in their Cheerios that day.

I was able to log in, but had no posting box as luvblues2 for two days. I contacted Matt and Sarah. No response. This IS the SR website and you have to except whatever they give you without you having any say.

You have probably felt the way with Erie County many times as we can see. One may be a private entity, public entity and the other semi-private, semi-public, but the results are the same. The entity will not respond and there isn't much you can do after you have followed the rules, even their guidelines.

If you could change things just by bitching incessantly, we'd have more bitches than???????????


If it is illegal, then take legal action rather than complaining on your public forum.


I do enjoy reading the Sandusky Register, but they seem to always have some type of issue with local law enforcement. Personally, I don't see any harm in the way Port Clinton PD is handling the procedures on releasing information to the public. I could understand if they were denying The Register, or any other news media information. I think The Register has done a great job reporting on the Jacob Limberios saga in Sandusky County. Though I do think this Port Clinton PD workup is a little far fetched and time should be wasted somewhere else.


There are some prominent people in Port Clinton, Ohio that break the law at times. They don't want their names in the newspaper.


Has Sandusky crime dried up that you need to go out of your city to dig up more? I'm really not sure what relevance, if any, there is about the low or insignificant crimes that happen in Port Clinton. If you want police logs, call the bigger departments like Cleveland or Columbus. Or better yet go after the federal agencies in Ottawa county and ask them to give you their reports, I'm sure they'll have much more interesting things to read than Port Clinton PD.

sandtown born a...

Maybe just maybe the Chief of Mayberry or Port Clinton should follow the laws he swore to uphold then NO STORY no beating the of the dead horse just goes away. NOPE he chooses to pick and choose what he will release its called censorship . Let them do it now and soon they will cross other lines and hide even more from the public. STOP DRINKING THE PC KOOL-AID


Your response is comical. Always with the what if's and possibilities. I'm sure that's exactly what the PCPD is doing, sitting around trying to figure out what they can get away with next. And he didn't say he would only release what he wanted, he asked that the SR pick the ones they wanted and he would get them to them. And is this really going to be worth all the hassle to get those reports, honestly? I'm sure the SR could use their time and energy doing news worthy stories other than the woman who got a bad hair cut. The kool-aid statement can also be used with you, stop believing what the SR prints as the truth.

Erie County Resident

I agree 100% with the Freedom of Information Act to a point.
They say we have a right to know and I agree, but I can also see why these agencies buck at any and all requests.
1st. Printing off hundreds of requests cost a lot of money.
2nd. When the SR published the CCW list with name, street and city address of every person on the list I lost ALL respect for the local media.
The people on that CCW list are now targets for theft and violence after having criminals given this shopping list for guns and former domestic violence victims. Adds more work load on LE also thanks to this.
I can imagine this does have some weight on LE decision to restrict access as to their motives.


Who annoited the SR the responsibiltiy to be a story creator for the community or the peoples' knight in shining armor to wring every last bit of useless information out of local citizenry? How about focusing on the positive aspects of the community and stop the witch hunts.