State ex rel. Warren Newspapers, Inc. v. Hutson
Ohio Supreme Court
640 N.E.2d 174 (1994)
In 1990, following a series of open-records violations, the Warren Police Department (the police department) and Warren Newspapers, Inc. (plaintiff) entered into a settlement agreement providing that police chief Thomas Hutson (defendant) had to comply with Ohio’s open-records law. In 1993 Warren Newspapers filed an open-records request with the police department, seeking information relating to internal investigations, traffic tickets, and personnel records. Hutson stated that Warren Newspapers’ review of the records had to occur at a predetermined time, that only one news reporter could be present to inspect the records, and that the police department had to be reimbursed for the records custodian’s time spent reviewing the documents. The news reporter conducted a two-hour review on June 28, 1993. When the news reporter asked to schedule a follow-up meeting, the police department stated that the records custodian was going on vacation and would not return for a few weeks. On that same day, the police department issued a press release stating that the police department’s records could only be inspected between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Previously, the police department allowed public inspection between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The police department was open 24 hours each day, seven days each week. Ohio’s open-records law provided that records had to be open to inspection by the public during all reasonable times during regular business hours. On August 12, the news reporter returned to continue the inspection. At that time, the police department only produced 18 of more than 300 responsive documents. The news reporter was also told that there would be a charge of $5.00 for each copy. Ohio’s open-records law provided that records had to be made available at cost within a reasonable period of time. Warren Newspapers filed a mandamus action and asserted, in part, that (1) the police department had to make its documents available for inspection at all times; (2) the police department could not charge more than the cost of reproducing the actual records; (3) the police department’s behavior constituted misconduct; and (4) because of the police department’s repeated pattern of misconduct, Warren Newspapers was entitled to attorney’s fees.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Pfeifer, J.)
Concurrence/Dissent (Douglas, J.)
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