The easiest way to obtain records is to put your request in writing, although you cannot be required to do so. Be clear and particular about what records you want. If you ask for copies, be aware that the public office can charge you for the actual cost of copying.
If you are reasonable and respectful when you make the request, you may get a more prompt response. If your request is ambiguous or overly broad, the office will give you more information about how it maintains records. At that point, it will be your responsibility to narrow or clarify your request.
It's best to provide the public office with how you can be contacted. Depending on what records you ask for, you may get access on the spot or it could take several days.
Understand that government workers are busy and that your request is just one of the many responsibilities they have.
Review the response.
If you got all the records you asked for, congratulations! You've been a part of government in action.
If you did not receive all the records you requested, the public office is required to give you a legal reason. The reason may cite to the Ohio Revised Code or a court opinion. Remember, not every document or record that a government office is available to the public.
If you disagree with the response, your only legal remedy is to file suit. A petition for writ of mandamus can be filed in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the office is located. You can also file suit in the District Court of Appeals or the Ohio Supreme Court.
While citizens occasionally represent themselves in these legal actions, because this area of law is very complex, you should consider retaining an attorney with expertise in this area.
If you win your case, the court will order the record or records released.
Additional resources provided by the author
When I was Deputy Attorney General, I authored or co-authored eight editions of this guidebook on public records law.