Cleveland Heights-University Heights
"Opening Doors, Opening Minds"
Service and Administration Policies
Public Records Policy
It is the belief of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library that openness leads to a better-informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of the library to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Records Act. It is also the policy of the library that exemptions from disclosure established by federal or state law, including without limitation Ohio Revised Code Section 149.432, must be applied, particularly where the laws are intended to protect the rights of third parties.
The library, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document―paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, email), 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 library meeting this definition are public unless they, or parts of them, are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio law or federal law.
It is the policy of the library that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying. Record retention schedules shall be made readily available to the public. This office designates the Library Director, or the Deputy Director or Business Manager if the Director is unavailable, as the public records manager to whom requests for public records should be directed.
- Record Requests.
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:
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 library to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the library Director, or Deputy Director or Business Manager if the Director is unavailable, 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.
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 the library’s general policy that this information will only be requested if the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or the intended use of the record would benefit the requester by enhancing the ability of the library to identify, locate or deliver the requested public record, and if the requester is informed that the written request or disclosure of identity of the requester or intended use of the records is not mandatory.
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., excluding days when the library is closed. 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.
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, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, and such other records requests that the library determines are “routine.” If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be emailed or downloaded easily, these should be made as quickly as practicable, taking into account the time required for legal review or redaction of the records, when applicable.
The library 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 record manager’s receipt of the request.
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.
- Costs for Public Records
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies.
- The charge for paper copies is 5 cents per page.
- The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc (CD-RW) or flash drive is $1 per disc or $5.00 per flash drive. If the requester provides the CD-RW disc or flash drive, there is no charge.
- There is no charge for documents emailed.
Requesters may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies, in addition to any copying charges. The library may require that the requester pay in advance the actual cost involved in providing copies, including postage.
When public requests for records are made to library staff, they should immediately contact the Director or, in his or her absence, the Deputy Director or Business Manager. They are in the best position to determine how best to meet the requester’s needs.
- Public Records Exceptions
Exemptions under this Policy include, but are not limited to, the following:
- As exempted, by O.R.C. 149.432, library records or patron information, unless 1) an appropriate subpoena, search warrant or court order is received; 2) the request is from a law enforcement officer who is acting in the scope of the officer's law enforcement duties and who is investigating a matter involving public safety in exigent circumstances, or 3) the individual who is the subject of the record or information consents.
- As exempted, with exceptions, under O.R.C. 149.43 and federal or state law:
- Attorney-client privileged information;
- Confidential employee information including medical records, Social Security numbers, etc.;
- Records that have been sealed pursuant to a statutorily authorized court order.
Whenever there is doubt as to whether information may or may not be released in response to a public records request, the Director, Deputy Director or Business Manager shall immediately contact the office of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, statutory legal counsel for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.
If a public record contains information that is confidential or exempt from the duty to permit public inspection or to copy the public record, the library shall redact the confidential or exempt information and shall make available all of the information within the public record that is not exempt or confidential.
Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content documents the organization, functions policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the office. Email is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
Employees who use private email accounts to conduct public business create records that may be subject to disclosure in accordance with Ohio Public Records laws. All employees or representatives of this office shall be instructed to comply with this office’s records retention policy with regard to all emails in private accounts that are public records, and to make them available to the office’s records manager in a timely manner.
The records manager shall be instructed to treat emails 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 Ohio Public Records laws.
Failure to respond to a public records request
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library recognizes that the consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request in accordance with the law may result in a court ordering the library to comply with the law and to pay the requester attorney’s fees and statutory damages.