I am all for 100% transparency, and with that said, this article will cover the proper way to request public information from the City of Barberton.
Step 1: Identify What You Want
I want to note that being responsible with a Freedom of Information Request will more than likely yield you a better outcome. However, all information obtained by the government through means of public services is public information. Ohio Case Law has proven documents not containing people’s business using public infrastructure can be classified as public records.
Be as specific as possible when explaining what information you want. Specifics could include a date range or communications between two individuals. Just recently, I was notified that my request for information was too broad. It happens, so try to be clear and to the point.
Ohio Rev. Code § 1306.01 defines “electronic record” as “a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.” Emails are considered “electronic records” and are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Contracts, notes, recordings, and other items may qualify as public information.
Step 2: Create the Request
This part of the FOIA process is where I usually get stuck at the most. I use a template that anyone can follow to help keep you on the right track. Start by downloading the Freedom of Information Request Template Below:
Step 3: Send the Request to the Law Department
According to the City of Barberton’s website, the law department is responsible for all incoming FOI requests. http://cityofbarberton.com/154/Public-Records-Policy
The website explains:
Access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a right of every person in the city. Records of the City of Barberton which are not exempt from disclosure under the law are available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Ohio Public Records Act.
Option 1: Send the request using certified mail
By sending your FOIA Request through certified mail, you are guaranteed the proper person gets the request. Certified mail is slow, but the best way to know the city has received the request.
576 W Park Avenue, Barberton, Ohio 44203
Option 2: Send the request using email
Ohio Case law has shown that requesting information through email is a valid request. You can attach your request to an email and send it to [email protected].
Do not expect a welcoming party when you file a request for information. You may very well have to pay a fee. If there is a fee, it can only be a material fee for the actual cost of material used.
- You do not have to state who you are or why you are requesting the information.
- If you request information for the Barberton City Schools or other organizations, there are limitations.
- If the organization is a “functional-equivalency” of government, they are subject to the FOIA.
As a councilperson, I will create a system where all my emails containing people’s business are open and accessible without a request. I will be proactive with information as I understand it. I will use social media and other media sources. Transparency is key, and when you must ask for transparency, how much transparency do you really have?
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