First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
print this   Print

Ohio state employees' home addresses not public records

By The Associated Press
09.08.05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — State employees' home addresses may be kept private because they don't meet the definition of a record under state open-records laws, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday.

Addresses don't document the decisions, policies, functions and activities of government, the ruling in State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Johnson said. But the court warned state agencies not to rely on the same argument to deny other records requests.

The Columbus Dispatch, which from 1992 to 2002 sought and received state payroll databases that included the addresses, sued to get the same information when the Department of Administrative Services refused to release it in 2003.

The newspaper eventually got most of the addresses from individual state agencies. The agencies still shielded the addresses of law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and others who feared for their safety if the information became public.

An agency's having provided information in the past without objection doesn't make it a public record, said the ruling by Justice Alice Robie Resnick.

The decision applies only to addresses, and the court is not straying from its history of liberally applying the public-records law, Resnick wrote.

The Dispatch argued that the addresses meet the definition of records that document state operations because Administrative Services said in a sworn statement that it needed and used them for operations, said Marion Little Jr., an attorney for the newspaper.

The ruling dismissed that argument, saying, "At best, home addresses represent contact information used as a matter of administrative convenience."

The full list of addresses still is released to state unions, even if those on the list are nonunion, and to charitable groups who solicit employees for donations, Little said.

"The only group now prohibited from having access to this same information is the public," he said.

Administrative Services appreciates the importance of the public's right to know how government decisions are made, but addresses don't provide insight into the internal workings of government, spokeswoman Gretchen Hull said.


Related

News media win greater access to Ohio police personnel files

Meanwhile, New Mexico corrections officials refuse to reveal identity of executioners despite protests that public has a right to know. 10.01.01

Federal judge's ruling allows personal police data to return to Web

Court strikes down Washington state law, saying it 'punishes the communication of truthful, lawfully obtained, publicly available information.' 06.04.03

Newspaper's request for gang records denied
Releasing addresses of 33 arrested juveniles to Youngstown, Ohio, paper could endanger relatives, neighbors, judge rules. 06.20.06

Open records

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.



Last system update: Monday, February 8, 2010 | 16:12:29
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
Columnists
Experts
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links