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Public Records Policy


Introduction:
It is the policy of the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts that openness leads to a better-informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of the Clerk’s office to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Records Policy . Law. It is also the policy of the Clerk’s office that exemptions from disclosure established by federal or state law must be applied, particularly where the laws are intended to protect the rights of third parties.


Section 1. Public Records
The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document – paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format – that is created or received by, or comes under the jurisdiction of a public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. All records of the Clerk’s office meeting this definition are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under Ohio law or federal law.

Section 1.1
It is the policy of the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Ohio Public Records Law. Record retention schedules shall also be made readily available to the public. This office designates Kelley Sweeney , 2nd floor Justice Center, 1200 Ontario Street, Cleveland, Ohio, kasweeney@cuyahgoacounty.us , as the public records manager.


Section 2. Record Requests
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:

Section 2.1
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requester must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian must contact the requester for clarification, and should assist the requester in revising the request by informing the requester of the manner in which the office keeps its records.

Section 2.2
The requester does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is this office’s general policy that this information is only requested if the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or the intended use of the record would benefit the requestor by enhancing the ability of the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts to identify, locate or deliver the requested public records, and if the requester is informed that the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or intended use of the record is not mandatory.

Section 2.3
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available 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; and the necessity for any legal review of the records requested.

Section 2.4
Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records. Routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately if feasible to do so. Routine requests include meeting minutes, budgets, salary information, forms and applications, and such other requests that the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts determines are “routine”. If any of these records contain exempt material such as social security numbers or other confidential information, they cannot be handled as “routine” requests. The Clerk’s office will strive to acknowledge all requests for public records and provide an estimate of the number of business days it will take to satisfy the request within three business days following the records custodian’s receipt of the request.

Section 2.5
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority. If the initial request was in writing, the explanation shall also be provided in writing.


Section 3 Costs for Public Records
Those seeking public records will be charged as follows:

Section 3.1 Legal Division:
The charge for paper copies is three cents per page. If the request is to have the record certified, the charge is $1.00 per page, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §2303.20(Z).

Section 3.2 Motor Vehicle Title Division:
Fees for searches of records of title information and copies thereof are pursuant to Ohio Revised Code § 4505.14. An Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles prescribed Record Request Form is required and attached to this policy. For more information about the Auto Title Division please visit the Fiscal Office Website.

Section 3.3
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They may be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.

Section 3.4
The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts may require the requestor to pay in advance the cost involved in providing the copies, including postage.


Section 4. E-mail
Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.

Section 4.1
Employees who use private e-mail accounts to conduct public business create records that may be subject to disclosure in accordance with Ohio Public Records Law. All employees or representatives of the this office shall be instructed to comply with this office’s records retention policy with regards to e-mails in private accounts that document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office, and to make them available to the office’s records custodian in a timely manner.

Section 4.2
The records custodian is to treat the e-mails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act. The Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts recognizes its responsibilities to respond to public records requests in accordance with law.