The Lorain County Records Commission is established by Ohio Revised Code Section 128. One of the primary responsibilities of county elected officials is to maintain records. The number of records maintained by county government constantly increases. The proper retention, storage, transfer and disposal of records can make the job of county officials easier. In addition, transfer or disposal of outdated records can result in considerable savings of space and equipment.
Public records may be kept by any means of photostatic, photographic, film, or microfilm process or perforated tape, other magnetic means, electronic data processing, machine readable means, graphic or video display or any combination of the above which the official authorized to maintain the records deems necessary or advisable. If a person requests a copy of a public record, it must be made available at cost and within a reasonable amount of time. “Cost” cannot include the portion of the salary paid to any person who prepares the record and makes it available to the public.
However, when these methods are utilized, any machines and equipment necessary to reproduce the records in a readable form must be made readily available (ORC 9.01). When any of these recording methods have been employed, the originals are to be disposed of in accordance with the procedures of the county records commission.
Before any action to destroy or transfer county records can be taken, such action must be approved by the county records commission. For further information refer to Ohio County Records Manual and the Local Government Records Handbook, both published by the Ohio Historical Society. These publications make recommendations concerning periods of retention for various records.
The Ohio Attorney General has published a Resource Manual for Ohio Sunshine Laws that contains detailed information not only on Ohio's Public Records Law, but also includes useful information on the open meetings (Sunshine) law, and the personal information systems law, Chapter 1347 of the Revised Code that should be referred to for a complete analysis of these issues.
Ohio Revised Code section 149.43, Ohio's basic Public Records Law, is to be interpreted liberally to facilitate broader public access to public records. While the law makes certain exceptions, these are to be strictly construed. If there is a doubt as to the applicability of an exception it is usually resolved in favor of disclosure.
The law requires every public office to maintain its records in accordance with statutory requirements or record retention schedules approved by the county records commission. Records can not be removed, transferred, destroyed or mutilated unless approved by the county records commission.
Finally, a county office is required to organize its filing system so that its records can be made available within a reasonable amount of time. In addition, each county office can only make such records as are necessary to the proper and adequate documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the office and for the protection of the legal and financial rights of the state and persons directly affected by the activities of the office (ORC 149.40).