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FOX19 Investigates: How public records help

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Every day you make decisions on what to buy, who to vote for, and how to live all based on information received from public records.

Do public entities follow the letter of the law when it comes to providing public records?

The FOX19 Investigates team found state agencies delivered on nine of every ten requests for basic records such as meeting minutes, a mayor's expense report, school superintendents pay, and police incident reports. The findings were a part of an audit performed by a coalition of Ohio Television, Newspaper and Radio Reporters.

This year's results were an improvement from the same audit done 10 years ago.

But what does it mean for you?

A 13 inch stack of documents sits on the FOX19 investigative desk, and it's only for one public contract we requested from the Metropolitan Sewer District. They are documents we couldn't have received without a records request.

Most FOX19 Investigations begin with similar pile of papers.

Remember in February when FOX19 uncovered an issue with parents leaving children unattended in vehicles parked in casino lots while they went and gambled? The 911 calls FOX19 obtained brought light to this issue. Those calls wouldn't have been heard if it weren't for a records request.

A closer look at requested public records told a story no one else was telling. It was of the Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden taking a $10,000 trip to Las Vegas with several staffers which included a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon complete with a champagne picnic.

Residencygate all started with a public records request. Our investigators requested addresses of Cincinnati Department Directors and uncovered several of them weren't living where they claimed to be. The investigation shook up council and was dubbed Residencygate by city leaders.

[Know your rights and take the quiz: How much do you know about public records requests?]

We've filed more than 100 records requests since FOX19 Investigates began last November. We're still waiting on some we filed months ago, and will continue to push for that information - It's the information you deserve to have. 

 

The interactive graphic and searchable data base above are from OhioNews.org. It shows which Ohio counties complied with public records request based on categories and regions.

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