Public Records Should Be Made Available In a Timely Manner

Last February, I requested that I receive a copy of all material sent to the Kettering Board of Education members and, since February, at the time of each board meeting I have received a packet of material for which I have paid 5 cents a page.  Some of that material I have posted here.

Yesterday, I heard from the district treasurer, Steve Clark, that this practice would be discontinued, because he discovered that according to Ohio Revised Code, I cannot request future records, I can only request records already in existence.  I telephoned Clark and he said he was alerted to his error by a Kettering board member who informed him that the current arrangement to provide me with public documents was exceeding the requirement of the Ohio Revised Code.  He writes (below): “The definition of a public record is ‘a record kept by any public office.’  A record which does not yet exist does not meet this definition.”

I told Clark that, of course, I could simply make a request each month for the material, but that this might mean that by the time I actually received a copy of these public records, some of the material might no longer be current.  My intent is to keep up to date with the thinking and actions of the board.   I believe public records should not only be available, but available in a timely manner.   This is a reasonable request and so I hope the Kettering Board will comply.

Below is Mr. Clark’s e-mail and my reply:


In February, 2010 you requested copies of “all reports, letters, memos and e-mails provided to Kettering School Board Members that are designated in law as public information.”  It was my understanding that you were requesting copies of all future reports, letters, memos and e-mails provided to the Board of Education.

However, a further review of the Ohio Revised Code indicates that a request for access to public records must relate to records currently in existence.  The definition of a public record is “a record kept by any public office.”  A record which does not yet exist does not meet this definition.

We will not be sending records in the future in response to your request that do not currently exist.  Please accept my apology for incorrectly interpreting the Ohio Public Records law at the time of your request.

Steve Clark


Since February, at the time of each meeting of the Kettering Board of Education, I have been receiving a copy of the packet of materials provided to each Kettering Board member.  My request in February was that each packet contain a copy of all reports, letters, memos and e-mails shared by board members generated in the time period from when the previous packet was prepared.  My intent is to keep informed in a timely manner of all communications made to this public board.  Your e-mail (copied below) indicates that you’ve discovered that this February request exceeds the requirement outlined in Ohio Revised Code, and, that, therefore, your honoring of this request exceeds your authority as an employee of the board.  I appreciate your informing me of this discovery.

It sounds like that a public body, if it chose to do so, could implement a strategy of delay as a means to frustrate the process of making public records available in a timely manner.  I am confident that the Kettering Board has no such strategy.  I am copying this e-mail to Jim Trent, Board President, and the other board members, and I am requesting that the board approve the current practice of my receiving a packet, in a timely manner,  containing a copy of all reports, letters, memos and e-mails provided to the board in the time period from when the previous packet was prepared.

Thank you.

Mike Bock

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4 Responses to Public Records Should Be Made Available In a Timely Manner

  1. Eric says:

    Isn’t it less expensive for the district to simply make another set of copies rather than wait for a request and then make the copies?

    Seems to me you’re helping the district in its diligent stewardship of public funds by giving them advance notice of your intentions to remain an informed citizen.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Eric — I don’t really know what to make of this. Yes, I think my request should save some time and I guess it is fair to say that time translates into money. After sending the e-mail, later in the afternoon, I did receive an e-mail from the superintendent’s office, the same type of e-mail as I have been receiving the last months, indicating that my packet would be ready this next Monday. I’ve received no direct communication from any of the board members.

  3. Bryan says:

    I would agree with the treasurer that you can’t request a public record that doesn’t yet exisit. With that being said, your request for recurring public info is a reasonable one. By even making an issue out of something so insignificant, they have expressed the desire to play hardball.

    Treating members of the public with contempt for such requests reflects very poorly on the administation for doing it in the first place and the board for not stepping in using good judgement. Fortunately, it only takes one email every month to make a request for the additional info.

  4. Eric says:

    You can request notice of public meetings. Such an announcement email could trigger an automatic request for the board book…

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