The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear arguments in two cases next week that involve public records requests from media outlets. The requests, which were made to the governor’s office and to a sheriff’s department, were denied.
Political web site Plunderbund Media made its request in 2012. After the governor’s office refused to release the governor’s daily schedules because of security concerns, the site’s managing editor asked the Ohio Department of Public Safety for records of threats against the governor. The department responded that investigations of these threats are “security records,” which are exempt from disclosure under the state’s public records law.
Plunderbund argues that some information in the threat investigations qualifies as a “routine offense and incident report.” The media outlet maintains that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled last year that these types of incident reports are public record and must be released.
In the second case, a 911 operator for the Butler County Sheriff’s Office received a call in June 2012 from a woman who said there had been an accident and her husband was not breathing. She asked for help and hung up. When the operator called back, the man’s stepson answered and said that he had stabbed his stepfather.
The Cincinnati Enquirer asked for a copy of the recording of the conversation between the stepson and the 911 operator. The Butler County prosecuting attorney denied the request, stating that the outbound call made by the operator was not a public record. A Butler County judge issued a protective order, requested by the prosecutor, to block the release of the recording. The judge eventually released the recording to the media just before the call was going to be presented to the jury in the stepson’s trial.
The Butler County officials assert that only a call to 911 from a person with an emergency is a 911 call that is public record. They also contend that the conversation between the operator and the stepson evolved into a police interrogation, so the recording did not have to be released because it was part of a criminal investigation.
Along with State v. Plunderbund Media, the court will hear three other cases on Tuesday, May 27. The court will consider State ex rel. The Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hon. Michael J. Sage et al. and three more on Wednesday, May 28. The court’s sessions begin at 9 a.m. each day at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.govand broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.