Public Records Policy
Introduction:

     It is the policy of the Hardin County Clerk of Courts that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy.  It is the policy of the Hardin County Clerk of Courts to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Records Act.  All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense and any denial of public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code.  If the request is in writing, the explanation must also be in writing.

Section 1.     Public records

This office, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document - paper, electronic, or other format - that is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.  All records of the Hardin County Clerk of Courts are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code.

Section 1.1

It is the policy of the Hardin County Clerk of Courts that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying.  Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and posted prominently.

Section 2.     Record requests

All requests for record checks must be submitted in writing, accompanied by the required fee pursuant to the Schedule of Costs Deposits as listed in the local court rules.

Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:

Section 2.1

Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records.  If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the office keeps its records.

Section 2.2

Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with the exception of published holidays.  Public records must be made available for inspection promptly.  Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time.  “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of records requested; the proximity of the location where the records are stored; and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.

Section 2.3

Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records.  Routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately if feasible to do so. 

All requests for public records must either be satisfied in accordance with this section or be acknowledged in writing by the Hardin County Clerk of Courts within three business days following the office’s receipt of the request.  If a request is deemed significantly beyond “routine,” such as seeking a voluminous number of copies or requiring extensive research, the acknowledgment must include the following:

Section 2.3a - An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request.
Section 2.3b - An estimated cost if copies are requested.
S
ection 2.3c - Any items within the request that may be exempt from disclosure.

Section 2.4

Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority.  If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released.  If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.

Section 3.     Costs for Public Records

Those seeking public records will be charged for the copies.

Section 3.1 - The charge for paper copies is 25 cents per page for copies 1 through 49;   thereafter 10 cents per page.
Section 3.2 - Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them.  They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies for paper copies.  They may be required to provide a self addressed stamped envelope.

Section 4.     E-mail

Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office.  E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.

Section 5.     Failure to respond to a public records request

The Hardin County Clerk of Courts recognizes the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request.  In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, the failure of the Hardin County Clerk of Courts to comply with a request may result in a court ordering the Hardin County Clerk of Courts to comply with the law and to pay the requester attorney’s fees and damages.