Last month we covered the refusal of Josh Mandel’s office to respond to a record request filed with his office in March. After five months, eight emails, two phone messages and a certified letter, we had received exactly zero responses from Seth Metcalf, Mandel’s General Counsel, or anyone else in Mandel’s office. Out of choices, we hired legal counsel. And yesterday we filed our complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court.
A little history… on March 15, 2012 we sent the same record request (see end of post) to every statewide office holder including the Secretary of State, Governor, Auditor, Attorney General and the Treasurer. Everyone responded in a reasonable amount of time except for Treasurer Josh Mandel, who ignored our request until we threatened to sue him and then, six months later, proceeded to deny the request anyway.
It’s important to note that each of these individuals is a Republican and each, at one time or another, has been the target of some usually-negative commentary or reporting on the part of Plunderbund.
Criticizing politicians is part of what blogs do, and it’s part of life as a modern office holder of any party. And being arguably the most influential political blog in Ohio politics today, we would hope they wear our posts like a badge of honor. After all, not every Republican is important enough to warrant our attention.
I mention this because it seems obvious Mandel is either hiding something – which we won’t know until we get the records back – or he is treating us differently than other requesters because he doesn’t like the coverage we’ve given him on the blog.
To the second part I’ll say this: If anyone has the right to be angry with us it’s the Governor. We have been relentless and occasionally ruthless in our criticism of John Kasich. And yet his staff have always been polite and professional in dealing with our record requests. Often, it feels, we are pushed to the back of the queue but when we put in a request it is acknowledged and they have been accommodating even when requests were very large and time consuming to produce.
And we haven’t exactly been nice to AG DeWine, SOS Husted or Auditor Yost either. Yet, after receiving our record request on March 15, all three provided an initial response the same day. And two: the AG and Auditor, provided responsive records the following day.
I mention the other office holders for another reason as well : It proves our request wasn’t burdensome or overly broad. Yost’s office, for example, was able to respond in full, providing 2,800 individual pdf files ranging in size from one page to over 11,000 pages, in single a day. As of the date of our request, Mandel had only received 56 record requests, including mine, and he proceeded to ignore the request for six full months before finally responding half-heartedly to our lawyer with none of the records we requested.
Which brings me back to the story about our lawsuit.
After being ignored for 5 months by Mandel’s office we looked to Attorney Victoria Ullmann to help us sort out our legal options. MS. Ullmann again reached out to Mandel’s office via Certified Mail, giving them 14 days to respond. On the very last day, Seth Metcalf called Mr. Ullmann and left a voice mail. Despite her insistence that she wanted a written response, Metcalf continued to leave voice mails asking her to “call him back.”
Finally, on September 14th, after threats of a lawsuit, and one day short of six months from the date of our original request, Metcalf responded. In his response letter he denied our request for the records – calling it overly broad and saying the responsive records were too “voluminous”. Instead he made a list of names and dates related to the records we actually asked for. Metcalf appears to have identified all of the records we asked for, made a list of the names and dates on the records, and then just sent us the list while claiming it would be too much work to identify the records themselves – which were likely sitting in a stack on his desk all along.
Fed up, we filed suit.
Case Number 12-1628 with the Supreme Court was filed yesterday : Plunderbund Media, LLC V Josh Mandel.
Mandel now has 21 days to file his response. We hope, for his sake, that he’s a little more responsive to the Ohio Supreme Court than he was to us.
I am requesting a copy of all record requests received by your office from January 1st, 2011 to today’s date (March 15, 2012) along with the communication related to those requests and any documents used to track the status of record requests received by your office. Specifically I am interested in:
1. A copy of the original letter, email, phone message, etc. for each record request received by your office
2. A copy of all communication between your office and each requester regarding his/her request
3. A copy of any documents or databases used to track the status of records requests
Note: I do not need a copy of all of the actual responsive records to the requests.