Supreme Court case tests penalty system for missing public records | The Columbus Dispatch

Timothy Rhodes says an eastern Ohio town owes him $5 million for violating state public-records law by failing to provide 911 tapes he requested. Full Story
Loser

Grove City, OH

#1 Apr 20, 2011
And this is why everything thing cost so much...because of worthless lawsuits such as this. If you wanted the records, then maybe you should make the request when they're still available. You can't expect records of no value to be kept forever. I'm sure the city's basement is only so big.
Bar-man

Columbus, OH

#2 Apr 20, 2011
This guy is nothing but pure filth. He should go to prison for clogging up the courts. Please deny this POS of any financial gain.
chuck

Columbus, OH

#3 Apr 20, 2011
most jokes don't make it that far but if you're dumb enough to trust you're attorney
Columbus

Columbus, OH

#4 Apr 21, 2011
Readers, if there are no consequences for not keeping public records, what prompts a public entity to maintain these records and make them available upon request?

Possible answers:
1. Financial penalty paid to the aggrieved person.
2. Someone in charge of keeping the records gets personally fined.
3. Someone in charge loses their job or removed from office if they were in charge.
4.#s 2 and 3 are too complicated to assign blame so it has to be 1.
5. I don't care, but don't pay any money.
Somantics

Delaware, OH

#5 Apr 21, 2011
If the State Supreme Court rules against the city of New Philadelphia, then I can look for ways to find fault just to get paid. And so can you. It brings new meaning to the term "the taxpayer owes me a living." God help us.
pinbalwyz

Shelton, WA

#6 Apr 21, 2011
Over 35 years ago, citizens of Washington State found their voice, in what was possibly their finest hour since Washington was admitted to the Union of sister states, when they overwhelmingly voted for an initiative worded in the strongest language possible requiring transparency in government.

The introduction to the statute explains the reason for the PDA:“The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.”

Since the voters’ overwhelming support of this initiative was recorded, the State’s legislature has endeavored to emasculate/kill its impact with the death of 1,000 cuts, i.e. dozens upon dozens of amendments to it eliminating whole ranges and entire categories of government documents subject to citizen review. Nevertheless, the courts have consistently upheld the initiative’s provisions, fining scofflaw agencies to discourage non-compliance as the law’s language intended. Political science analysts have applauded the law’s introduction of ‘sunshine’ into government and the democratic process.

(For more info, see: http://amicuscuria.com/wordpress/... )
pinbalwyz

Shelton, WA

#7 Apr 21, 2011
Loser wrote:
And this is why everything thing cost so much...because of worthless lawsuits such as this. If you wanted the records, then maybe you should make the request when they're still available. You can't expect records of no value to be kept forever. I'm sure the city's basement is only so big.
Electrons (digital storage) are cheap and take very little room. All agencies should be required to store all documents in a publicly accessible digital format.

Since: Jan 10

Cincinnati, OH

#8 Apr 21, 2011
pinbalwyz wrote:
<quoted text>
Electrons (digital storage) are cheap and take very little room. All agencies should be required to store all documents in a publicly accessible digital format.
Your idea would not work as the stated request was for the 'Original' Reel-To-Reel tapes going back to the mid 80s (before there were digital recordings).

So exactly how long should a small city be required to maintain reel-to-reel tapes which are expensive and take a lot of room?
pinbalwyz

Shelton, WA

#9 Apr 21, 2011
Ohio Veteran wrote:
<quoted text>
Your idea would not work as the stated request was for the 'Original' Reel-To-Reel tapes going back to the mid 80s (before there were digital recordings).
So exactly how long should a small city be required to maintain reel-to-reel tapes which are expensive and take a lot of room?
Digitize the tapes, documents, photos, etc. just like I do at home. Court, at one time, reduced their older documents to microfilm. Today, they digitize them. Federal Courts now REQUIRE (at least for attorneys) pleadings, briefs, responses, and other court documents be submitted in Adobe format! The State of Washington maintains appellate and state supreme court decisions going back to when it was admitted to the union and even before. One can obtain a certification, if necessary, that what you download is a true and correct copy. A person shouldn't, perhaps, be allowed to insist on the original format so long as a certified copy in a modern format exists. But it is vital that public records be maintained, not destroyed, as they are the foundation for Due Process, our culture, and our history. Agencies that destroy or lose them should be held accountable. In Washington State, it is a felony to tamper with or destroy public/official documents. Imagine if the innocence of an inmate on death row hung on ferreting out exculpatory evidence from the audio of those tapes? Without the record, all of us suffer from the impossibility of an court reviewing that record and remedying a travesty of justice.

Since: Jan 10

Cincinnati, OH

#10 Apr 21, 2011
pinbalwyz wrote:
<quoted text>
Digitize the tapes, documents, photos, etc. just like I do at home. Court, at one time, reduced their older documents to microfilm. Today, they digitize them. Federal Courts now REQUIRE (at least for attorneys) pleadings, briefs, responses, and other court documents be submitted in Adobe format! The State of Washington maintains appellate and state supreme court decisions going back to when it was admitted to the union and even before. One can obtain a certification, if necessary, that what you download is a true and correct copy. A person shouldn't, perhaps, be allowed to insist on the original format so long as a certified copy in a modern format exists. But it is vital that public records be maintained, not destroyed, as they are the foundation for Due Process, our culture, and our history. Agencies that destroy or lose them should be held accountable. In Washington State, it is a felony to tamper with or destroy public/official documents. Imagine if the innocence of an inmate on death row hung on ferreting out exculpatory evidence from the audio of those tapes? Without the record, all of us suffer from the impossibility of an court reviewing that record and remedying a travesty of justice.
Your argument has no basis in facts. First, this is Ohio not Washington State so what Washington does or does not do holds little support in this discussion. Second, the public records request was worded specifically for "Original Reel-to-Reel Tapes" of 911 calls spanning a period of over 20 years, not certified copies of the recordings. Third, New Philadelphia is a small town in North Eastern Ohio, I seriously doubt there are any inmates sitting on death row that can be exonerated based on evidence from the 911 tapes of New Philadelphia. Finally, IF these 911 tapes have been used in any criminal proceedings there are already 'certified copies' on file under the rules of evidence laws and are available under the public records laws.

This is nothing more than a 'shotgun' approach attempting to sue the city of New Philadelphia. In fact the individual requesting these records does not even live in New Philadelphia according to earlier reports so he should have to provide documentation to show why these tapes are required. Remember, 911 tapes also record crime victim's name, address, phone number, and nature of the crime. If your mother/sister/daughter had just been raped would you want that information released to anyone and everyone who asked for it?
pinbalwyz

Shelton, WA

#11 Apr 25, 2011
All 911 tapes (in Washington State)*ARE* public record. They are usually broadcast (at the time) over the air and folks with scanners listen to them. Citizens (here) are not required to disclose *WHY* they want copies of government records. Transparency in government is reason enough. Penalties are necessary for non-compliance because too many agencies are indifferent (or worse) to citizen requests for disclosure. Destruction of official documents (in Washington State) is a crime...and justly so. While it may be the case the party in question demanded the tapes themselves, that could be handled by a change in the law making digital copies a lawful substitute...as microfilm once was.

While Ohio isn't Washington State, I'd like to think all Americans believe transparency in government is a cornerstone of democracy. Ohioans would be well served to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure government remains transparent and is sanctioned when it evades that fiduciary responsibility. Financial penalties (just like traffic fines) help create disincentives for ignoring citizen requests to produce the records. Democracy is too important to be left to government agencies...it must be protected by resolute citizens willing to defend it. The gentleman you, et ux, take issue with is, in fact, doing you and your countrymen a service. I wish there were more like him.

Since: Jan 10

Cincinnati, OH

#13 Apr 27, 2011
pinbalwyz wrote:
All 911 tapes (in Washington State)*ARE* public record. They are usually broadcast (at the time) over the air and folks with scanners listen to them. Citizens (here) are not required to disclose *WHY* they want copies of government records. Transparency in government is reason enough. Penalties are necessary for non-compliance because too many agencies are indifferent (or worse) to citizen requests for disclosure. Destruction of official documents (in Washington State) is a crime...and justly so. While it may be the case the party in question demanded the tapes themselves, that could be handled by a change in the law making digital copies a lawful substitute...as microfilm once was.
While Ohio isn't Washington State, I'd like to think all Americans believe transparency in government is a cornerstone of democracy. Ohioans would be well served to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure government remains transparent and is sanctioned when it evades that fiduciary responsibility. Financial penalties (just like traffic fines) help create disincentives for ignoring citizen requests to produce the records. Democracy is too important to be left to government agencies...it must be protected by resolute citizens willing to defend it. The gentleman you, et ux, take issue with is, in fact, doing you and your countrymen a service. I wish there were more like him.
Now you are making things up. The 911 Tapes are not broadcast over the air in Washington State, the 911 Dispatch is what people are listening to over their scanners. That is not the original recorded phone call. 911 Dispatches are available to anyone in Ohio who has a scanner as well as being printed in most newspapers on a weekly basis.

Are you a conspiracy theorist? The 'government' is intentionally trying to hide some deep dark secret by not keeping recordings of phone calls made to the 911 Dispatcher? You keep ignoring the facts here:

1) The request is for 'ORIGINAL' recordings from over 20 years ago. Not copies, not transcripts, not digital facsimiles, the ORIGINAL Reel-to-Reel recordings.

2) He sued 'AFTER' being told the City does not maintain original records for that long.

3) The chances that there is ANYTHING on a recording made to a 911 Dispatcher 20 years is of any public value is slim to none, especially from a small town.

Go back to your bomb shelter and wait for the 'men in black' to come knocking on your door. There is nothing being hidden here, other than your delusions.

Guess your speed

North Dighton, MA

#14 Apr 27, 2011
Ohio Veteran wrote:
<quoted text>
Your argument has no basis in facts. First, this is Ohio not Washington State so what Washington does or does not do holds little support in this discussion. Second, the public records request was worded specifically for "Original Reel-to-Reel Tapes" of 911 calls spanning a period of over 20 years, not certified copies of the recordings. Third, New Philadelphia is a small town in North Eastern Ohio, I seriously doubt there are any inmates sitting on death row that can be exonerated based on evidence from the 911 tapes of New Philadelphia. Finally, IF these 911 tapes have been used in any criminal proceedings there are already 'certified copies' on file under the rules of evidence laws and are available under the public records laws.
This is nothing more than a 'shotgun' approach attempting to sue the city of New Philadelphia. In fact the individual requesting these records does not even live in New Philadelphia according to earlier reports so he should have to provide documentation to show why these tapes are required. Remember, 911 tapes also record crime victim's name, address, phone number, and nature of the crime. If your mother/sister/daughter had just been raped would you want that information released to anyone and everyone who asked for it?
Under Ohio law one doesn't have to be a resident of the area records are requested, nor a reason for the request. While he should not receive the amount asked for he should receive fees and costs and a smaller amount.

If public records retention and avalibilty are to be taken seriously laws need to change so Public officials and employees shall loose their job and retirement and could include prison time if the fail to produce requested records. there should be requirements to digitize records , etc.

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