Access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a right of every person in Ohio.
The Meigs County General Health District (also known as the Meigs County Health Department or MCHD) is a political sub-division of the State of Ohio. The MCHD is accountable to those it serves; therefore, the MCHD and its governing entity: the Meigs County Board of Health supports government transparency and your right to know what goes on behind the scenes.
Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings laws, collectively known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records. The Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 149.43 defines public records as records kept by any public office, including, but not limited to, state, county, city, village, township, and school district units.
At the MCHD, you may view the records you have requested at all reasonable times during regular business hours (which are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). If you wish to view public records at the MCHD, we will promptly make them available to you. If you wish to receive copies of records, we will provide them 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; the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.
Once the MCHD has received your request, we will provide our response or acknowledge your request and provide you with an estimate of when you should expect our response, an estimated cost if copies have been requested and the items (if any) that we expect may be exempt from disclosure. If at any time prior to completing our response, we believe our response will take longer than initially estimated (because of the volume of records requested, the proximity of location where the records are stored or the complexity of the legal review), we will inform you of this change.
If any portion of your request for records must be denied because the records are exempt from disclosure under the law, the MCHD will inform you which records you have requested are not public by clearly marking the portion “redacted” or we will explain which portions of the record(s) have been redacted. In addition, we will provide you with the legal authority upon which we have relied. The MCHD seeks guidance from its legal counsel, the County Prosecutor, as specific questions arise.
If the MCHD denies your request because it is overbroad, ambiguous or doesn’t reasonably identify our records, we will provide you with information about how our records are maintained, and, if you wish, you may revise your request for the records.
A fee for copies of public records may be charged which covers the direct costs of duplication incurred by the MCHD; currently, this fee is $.10 per paper copy. In addition, actual costs of postage or other delivery may be charged. We may require payment of these fees prior to processing your request.
All public offices including the MCHD are required to adopt a public records policy that describes how the public office will respond to public records requests. There are three specific items that public offices cannot have in their public records policies. The policy cannot: limit the number of public records it will make available to a single person; limit the number of public records it will make available during a fixed period of time; establish a fixed period of time before it will respond to a request for inspection/copying of public records unless that period is less than eight hours.
The Ohio Auditor of State (AOS) requires the MCHD to provide evidence that the public office adopted a public records policy; the AOS inspects the policy to confirm that none of the above mentioned three items are included in such policy.
All public offices including the MCHD are required to distribute their Public Records Policy to the employee who is the records custodian/manager or otherwise has custody of the records of that office. The AOS requires written evidence that the records custodian/manager acknowledged receipt of a copy of the policy. At the MCHD, this designated employee is me, but we also have all staff members review the policy and we provide training.
The AOS requires all public offices to create a poster that describes the public records policy adopted by the public office. In addition, the public office is required to post the poster in a conspicuous place in the public office and in all locations where the public office has branch offices. Finally, if the public office has an employee policies and procedures manual or handbook (which the MCHD does), it is required that the public records policy be included in such manual or handbook. The MCHD has posted its public records policy and its public record request form on its website: www.meigs-health.com for easy access by stakeholders. Know your rights! Visit https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Files/Publications-Files/Publications-for-Legal/Sunshine-Law-Publications/2020-Sunshine-Manual_WEB to access the 2020 Ohio Sunshine Laws.
Sources: ORC, Ohio Attorney General, Ohio AOS.
Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is the Administrator at the Meigs County Health Department.