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Is Party Requesting Improperly Destroyed Records 'Aggrieved' Simply Because Records Were Unavailable?
Timothy T. Rhodes v. The City of New Philadelphia, Case no. 2010-0963
5th District Court of Appeals (Tuscarawas County)
ISSUE: A provision of the Ohio Public Records Act, R.C. 149.351(B)(2), provides that if a city or other political subdivision of the state destroys or otherwise disposes of public records in a manner that is not authorized under the city's official records retention policy, or without authorization from the Ohio Historical Society, any person who is "aggrieved" by the improper destruction of those records may file suit and obtain a $1,000 civil forfeiture (cash award) from the political subdivision for each record that was improperly disposed of. In this case, the Supreme Court is asked whether a person requesting public records that have been improperly destroyed is automatically "aggrieved" and therefore eligible to recover a civil forfeiture simply because the requested records were not available, or if a person seeking the records must show that he or she suffered some actual harm or prejudice as a result of the destruction of the records.
BACKGROUND: The Ohio Public Records Act, which is codified in Chapter 149 of the Revised Code, requires cities and other political subdivisions to create a records retention commission. These commissions are required to adopt and file with the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) a formal records retention policy that sets mandatory retention periods and procedural guidelines for the eventual destruction or disposal of written and electronic documents that are created by or filed with city government offices and agencies in the course of conducting their official functions.