At the February 13th Loveland City Council meeting Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber had one last thing he wanted to talk about before the meeting was adjourned. It seems that the Vice Mayor needed clarification on how to proceed forward with a public record request relating to his official government, and personal, communications with a long list of people. The Vice Mayor stated he wants to comply, but is unsure what he can do because the record request did not provide a topic, and he said he would comply once given clear instructions by the City Solicitor.
Why would Vice Mayor Weisgerber want to have this discussion in a public meeting? The City Solicitor stated that the city had been working on getting a clear idea of what the public record requester is looking for. Knowing that the city was working on his issue, why did Vice Mayor Weisgerber use his elected position to lodge a complaint about a public record request?
We will get back to that question, but first we need to understand what Vice Mayor Weisgerber, and any person who works for any level of government, are responsible for when a public record is requested. In the Ohio Sunshine Laws Resource Manual the rules regarding public records request are laid out. Any person can request any public record at any time. The government entity has rights in how they release these records. There are certain items protected by confidentiality, national security, juvenile protection, etc. that can be withheld. The sunshine law does allow for the government entity to request for clarity, or narrowing of scope, in a records request. The law does not allow for a governmental entity to deny requests because of "too much expense, or too much time involved, or too much interference with normal duties can be used by the public office to evade the public’s right to inspect or obtain a copy of public records within a reasonable time." This is all easy to understand, so we ask again, why would Vice Mayor Weisgerber bring this up at city council?
The first theory is that the Vice Mayor is uncertain on how the sunshine laws work in Ohio. This is a terrible theory because one would think that in the more than two decades that Rob Weisgerber has been on Loveland City Council, he should have a pretty good understanding on how he should respond to a public records request. Also the City Solicitor stated that the city had been working on this issue. One would assume that Vice Mayor Weisgerber was aware of this work being done.
The next theory states that the Vice Mayor is trying to delay the release of certain records. Why would he want to do that? Is there something in the records that the Vice Mayor is a afraid of? If he is trying to delay the release of records, that goes against the spirit of open, transparent, government. it is also opening the city of Loveland up for a lawsuit(s).
The final theory is that Vice Mayor Weisgerber was trying to rally his base, members of a local PAC who endorsed him in the last election, and to intimidate his opposition. That type of action is disgraceful for any one in a public position. We hope that this is not the case.
People ask for public records because they want information. Some of these people are journalists, some are looking for illegal behavior in their government, and some just want information, and all of these people are entitled to non-protected public records. One can hope that Vice Mayor Weisgerber now realizes how his actions open up more scrutiny than before. One can hope that a person who has spent over two decades on city council is not trying to hide something. One can hope that Vice Mayor Weisgerber will let the city solicitor do their job, and that all members of the local government will comply with all public records request. By using a public meeting to say that he is burdened by a public records request has only put his political career sharper in the spotlight. Is that what the Vice Mayor wanted?
RD Kulik is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. Hit him up on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.