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.