I’ve received a lot of encouragement over the years about my Letters to the Editor. I’ve also received a lot of tips from a lot of people wanting me to “check things out”. I don’t care if you call me (740-404- 7880) and tell me your story about a public official. But, please, keep in mind that I am not interested in personal issues about public officials that has nothing to do with their job. I would also like to thank The Beacon for being one of the only local newspapers that will print Letters to the Editor from anyone (as long as you follow their basic guidelines).
Although it’s not easy sometimes, I review public records to get facts. Over the years, I have found that some public officials have hoops they want you to jump through just to look at records. They are usually the public officials who have something to hide.
I encourage everyone to get educated about the Sunshine Laws (public records and open meetings laws) ESPECIALLY if you are a public official. You can go to http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/ Sunshine-Laws and take a FREE online course. This course should be mandatory for ALL public officials.
Here are a couple of examples of what I go through trying to look at public records: One day in Buckeye Lake, I called the village office to ask about looking at Buckeye Lake’s Municipal Code book. The council/ mayor’s court clerk spent a few minutes telling me how many hundreds of pages there are in this book and how she can’t easily copy pages from the book and if I wanted to see the book I could go down to the Licking County Law Library where she delivered a copy of the book!
I reminded her that I only wanted to VIEW the book and I said, “Are you telling me you don’t have a copy in your office, of the village’s laws that are used to quote from when writing a speeding ticket?” She then said she did have a copy in her office and I could come and see it.
When I came in the office, she quickly retrieved the book from the back of the room and laid it on the counter and hurried away. The book was a loose-leaf binder (with very easy to remove pages). I took pictures of the pages I was interested in and left. This probably took less time than she spent on the phone trying to send me out of my way to the Licking County Law Library in Newark!
On another occasion, I walked into the Buckeye Lake village office and asked to see invoices that had been paid for mowing services. The council/mayor’s court clerk seemed very defensive and spent about 20 minutes telling me that they don’t have to drop everything they’re doing to show me invoices. She said I have to put the request in writing and then proceeded to call the village attorney and the mayor! At no time was I disrespectful to her, nor did I expect her to drop everything she was doing to help me, the public, look at PUBLIC records. Once again, less time (and money since I would bet the village attorney is not working for free) could have been spent just letting me look at the invoices!
On a somewhat lighter note, I called the dog pound and asked for a record of a dog to be emailed to me. The employee told me I had to put the request in writing. I said to him, “You should know, after all these years, that I do NOT have to put a records request in writing!”
His response was that he actually did not know that and he promptly emailed the record. It was such a relief not to have to get the Attorney General involved and not to have to listen to former dog warden John Silva’s multitude of excuses just to try to look at a public record.
But, since the new dog warden (Dave Shellhouse) has taken over, Licking County has actually taken a couple more steps BACKWARDS! Just before he left, Silva sent a written communication to the City of Newark and told them that their Animal Control Officer/Humane Agent could no longer bring cats to the pound. I spoke to Shellhouse on a Thursday around the end of October. I explained that the City of Newark now needed written communication to start bringing cats to the pound again. He said he would send a letter but it would probably be the next day as he was busy. I called him the following Tuesday and asked why he hadn’t sent the letter. He stated that he was not going to take any more cats from anyone and once the cats that are in the pound were gone that would be the end of it. He continued by saying, “Cats are a losing proposition for the county.” I was shocked! He continued by saying they would be increasing enforcement efforts and they can’t use the money from the pound’s budget to spend on cats.
More to come…