STACEY A. NEFF Requester
LISA KNAPP Respondent
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JEFFERY W. CLARK SPECIAL MASTER
On September 15, 2017, requester Stacey Neff made public
records requests to Joel Spitzer, Orange Township Fiscal
1) personnel file for Lisa Knapp
2) any records of requests from Lisa Knapp for financial
records for Orange Township
3) any communications from or to Lisa Knapp related to
forensic audit, including communications sent to state
auditor or private auditing firm
4) attendance record for Lisa Knapp, including meeting type
and date, since taking office as township trustee
5) any communications regarding legal implications of
videotaping or recording of township meetings, internet posts
6) any information regarding the cost of insurance to protect
Orange Township against lawsuits related to YouTube videos or
trustee internet posts.
(Complaint at 2.) On September 18, 2017, Spitzer forwarded a
second, slightly different version of these requests to
respondent Lisa Knapp, Orange Township Trustee, noting in his
cover email that
This is a courtesy notice that your personnel file will be
produced as part of this office's duty to provide it.
Rest assured, all information that requires redaction will be
Please see the remaining requested items below. Obviously,
several items are under your control; thus, would need to be
provided from you.
Please provide notice to this office once the items requested
are prepared for delivery.
(Id. at 3.) Additional correspondence submitted by
Neff is truncated and incomplete, but appears to show that
Knapp had not provided copies of her personal email for
response to any of the requests as of October 10, 2017.
(Id. at 4-5.) Neff states she received records
responsive to request Nos. 1, 4, and 6 "directly from
the township." (Id. at 1.)
On October 25, 2017, Neff filed a complaint naming Knapp in
her capacity as an Orange Township Trustee and alleging
denial of access to public records in violation of R.C.
149.43(B). Neff alleges:
I have received all items that I requested directly from
township. However, those items requested directly from Ms.
Knapp have not been addressed. Lisa uses a personal email
address so only she can send this information. Please see
highlighted items on next page.
(Complaint at 1.) The "highlighted items" are
requests Nos. 2, 3, and 5. (Id. at 2.) On January
16, 2018, Neff and Knapp both filed additional material.
Following unsuccessful mediation, Knapp submitted a February
5, 2018 motion to dismiss (Response). On March 9, 2018, legal
counsel entered an appearance on behalf of Knapp and Orange
Township, and on March 28, 2018, filed records responsive to
requests Nos. 2 and 3 under seal. Respondent filed affidavits
authenticating these records, and attesting that no records
exist in response to request No. 5.
Ohio's Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43, provides a remedy
for production of records under R.C. 2743.75 if the court of
claims determines that a public office has denied access to
public records in violation of R.C. 149.43(B). The policy
underlying the Act is that "open government serves the
public interest and our democratic system." State ex
rel. Dann v. Taft, 109 Ohio St.3d 364, 2006-Ohio-1825,
848 N.E.2d 472, ¶ 20. "[O]ne of the salutary
purposes of the Public Records Law is to ensure
accountability of government to those being governed."
State ex rel. Strothers v. Wertheim, 80 Ohio St.3d
155, 158, 684 N.E.2d 1239 (1997). Therefore, the Act "is
construed liberally in favor of broad access, and any doubt
is resolved in favor of disclosure of public records."
State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty.,
75 Ohio St.3d 374, 376, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996). Claims under
R.C. 2743.75 are determined using the standard of clear and
convincing evidence. Hurt v. Liberty Twp.,
5th Dist. Delaware No. 17CAI050031,
2017-Ohio-7820, ¶ 27-30.
The parties do not dispute that the requested documents
constitute "records" within the meaning of
149.011(G), or that Orange Township is a respondent to this
action as a public office. Neff named Knapp in her capacity
as a trustee, and an action against a government official in
her official capacity generally constitutes an action against
the official's office. See State ex rel. Estate of
Miles v. Piketon,121 Ohio St.3d 231, 2009-Ohio-786, 903
N.E.2d 311, ¶ 18-23. In conformity: 1) counsel has
appeared on behalf of both Knapp and Orange Township (March
9, 2018 Notice of Appearance), 2) the action does not assert
a liability to which only Knapp must respond, Id. at
¶ 22-23, and 3) Neffs request was directed to Fiscal
Officer Spitzer, who is by statute the person responsible for
the administrative records of ...