Cleveland hit with the most public records complaints in the Ohio

Posted at 10:34 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 23:14:14-04

Northeast Ohio civil rights attorney David Malik confirmed the City of Cleveland has more complaints filed about public records than any other entity in the state over the past six months.

The complaints, filed about access to critical public records, were filed with the Ohio Court of Claims.

According to state law, public records must be provided in a timely fashion, but Malik believes, in many cases, Cleveland isn't living up to the law.

Malik said in one case, he filed a complaint against Cleveland, after asking for public records from the Cleveland Police Department concerning a civil rights case.

Malik said after waiting for more than 180 days, he determined Cleveland's own law department was also waiting.

"They weren't getting the information either," said Malik.  "The police department wasn't turning over the information to the very lawyers who are supposed to defend and represent them."

Attorney Sara Gedeon believes the complaints filed with the state against Cleveland, represent only a fraction of the people who weren't given public records in a timely fashion required by law.

"Do people forget, do people get derailed, do people just give up, do people blow their statues of limitations because of this," said Gedeon.

Private investigator Robert Slattery, with J.A.B. Investigative Services, said he makes more than 100 public records requests every year.

Slattery believes improper training in processing public records requests at Cleveland city hall is the reason for slow response time.

"If you don't have anything to hide, why wouldn't you let it out?" said Slattery.

"I've had to wait well over 180 days, that's when I finally filed the civil suit."

We contacted the Cleveland Mayor's office about complaints concern public records requests, but it refused to comment and told News 5 it's the subject of on-going litigation.

Meanwhile, Malik believes delays in releasing public records can have an impact on criminal and civil rights cases, as well as potentially stalling improvements in laws and city services.

"Things don't get changed, and when things don't get changed the general public is harmed."