Records seekers should not be intimidated
Government officials and employees are notorious for trying to keep documents secret from the public. That is why, in both Ohio and West Virginia, we have open records laws requiring release of such information, except in certain circumstances such as ongoing criminal investigations.
Reportedly, officials in some other states have come up with a new way to thumb their noses at the public’s right to know. They have been filing lawsuits against those who seek some records, when an excuse can be made that the documents are legally sensitive or could prove embarrassing to someone.
Government entities have filed such lawsuits in Kentucky, Oregon and Louisiana, The Associated Press reports. Some of the actions have been upheld in court.
Here is our advice to local and state officials in our states who may be thinking of similar action to intimidate those who ask for public records: Forget it.
If there is a legitimate reason to keep a type of public document secret, go to the legislature and have it included on the list of open records law exemptions.
But do not use the threat of lawsuits to frighten taxpayers — and yes, the press — away from demanding public records.
Here in Ohio and West Virginia, people don’t take kindly to those who attempt to scare us away from insisting on our right to know.