In September we contacted the Ohio State Highway Patrol and requested copies of investigations into threats against the governor. We wanted to see how many actual threats had been made against Kasich and if these threats coincided with schedule records the Governor’s office was refusing to release over “security” concerns.
Our request was forwarded to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, who proceeded to deny the request claiming the documents constituted “security records” which could not be released “out of concern for the safety of public officials, their families and those with whom they work.”
After multiple revised requests, and multiple denials, we filed a complaint in the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday to force them to release the records.
Court documents are currently available on the Ohio Supreme Court website.
When it comes to releasing public records, John Kasich’s Governor’s office does a pretty poor job. One of the most widely reported stories of Team Kasich playing fast and loose with public record laws involved the governor’s schedules and the Ohio Democratic Party.
According to news reports, Kasich’s office first denied ODP requests for his schedules saying they didn’t exist, then they asserted executive privilege and then they provided some records but redacted huge chunks of information claiming “trade secrets” might be revealed if the public found out who the governor was meeting with. Throughout the process, the governor’s office continued to claim that “security concerns” prevented them from releasing Kasich’s schedules in advance because “his office receive[s] threats ‘on any given day.'”
We thought this last excuse was an interesting one, especially given Kasich’s obsession with security, his plan to put metal detectors in the Statehouse and the millions in additional state funding requested for his security detail. So we decided to investigate by requesting copies of investigation records dealing with threats against the governor.
As we mentioned, that initial request was denied.
Though we disagreed with their denial, we thought we’d try to work with the office to find a compromise, so we subsequently revised our request, asking simply for the cover page of each closed investigation with any security-related information redacted. The request was again denied, as was a third request sent by our attorney.
Robin R. Mathews, Associate Legal Counsel for Public Safety argued that “each of the requested records, in its entirety, constitutes a security record and is exempt from disclosure, redaction is not applicable.” They argue that releasing even redacted records “would pose a significant risk” to the Governor and his family.
While Plunderbund has utmost respect for the work the Ohio State Highway Patrol does in protecting the Governor, we disagree with Ms. Mathews and believe the records should be appropriately redacted and then released otherwise they could conceal virtually any record that can be remotely connected with any security issue.
Plunderbund filed a complaint this week in the Ohio Supreme Court against Tom Charles and Kasich’s Department of Public Safety to secure the release of the records.
“The Ohio Supreme Court has consistently held that any exceptions to the public document act requirements should be narrowly applied,” said Attorney Victoria Ullmann, who is representing Plunderbund. “The Department of Public Safety has claimed a security exemption that is far too broad to be consistent with Ohio law on public documents. ”