After months of waiting for the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to release public records related to last summer’s charter school scandal, Plunderbund Media LLC has filed a lawsuit to force Governor John Kasich’s representatives at the ODE to turn over emails from David Hansen, Kasich’s hand-picked and now-disgraced Charter School Czar.
Hansen, husband of trusted Kasich adviser Beth Hansen, resigned from his state job back in July 2015 after it was discovered he illegally withheld damaging rating data from charter sponsor evaluations. Seven weeks later, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) finally released some public records related to that charter school data scandal. Included in those records were emails sent from Hansen’s personal Gmail account.
On September 25th, 2015 we requested all emails from Hansen’s personal accounts related to the charter school scandal. Ohio’s courts have continually viewed records from personal email accounts, when used for public business, as public records.
Lawyers from ODE were originally cooperative and, based on additional public records obtained by Plunderbund, made an initial good faith effort to obtain the records from Hansen. Hansen, however, was not cooperative and immediately hired a lawyer, who pushed back against the request. By January, 2016 the ODE appears to have given up fighting with Hansen over the records which were their responsibility to maintain and provide.
Ohio law, unfortunately, provides only one option for a media outlet in our situation, and we are again forced to sue the Kasich administration in order to obtain these public records.
Copies of the initial court documents are included below.