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Local governments passed this year’s open records test

March 25, 2012
Morning Journal News

Sunshine Week- a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information, was observed March 11-17. The event is sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. During that week, many newspapers all over the United States conduct an examination of government's responsiveness to citizens.

The Morning Journal has been participating in the annual records audit for several years. We choose records we know to be public, and request them from local government agencies, as well as school districts. We also try to seek records which contain information we believe would be of interest to our readers.

This year we requested personnel files for public employees from various agencies and governmental entities throughout the county.

Even though we began our records audit during the designated week, two of the files we requested were quite extensive and two groups - East Liverpool City Schools administrators and the Columbiana County Sheriff's Department - requested more time to comply, hence our delay in reporting the results to you.

While our request for personnel files made some groups feel uneasy about providing them, no one refused and it was obvious that employees handling the records of the governmental entities that we audited are familiar with the law and have been well-educated about what is and is not permitted to be released.

We have one suggestion for East Liverpool schools: when releasing records which contain students' names, be sure all names are redacted. We found names of students in the records that were obviously overlooked by the redactor. Of course we would not publish those names, but anyone can request copies of public records, and another records recipient might not keep the names confidential.

Details of the records audit are reported in a story which begins on Page 1 today. We think you'll be pleased to know that our county records keepers are operating in the sunshine.



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