Columbus –Only 60 percent of Ohio cities responded promptly to a recent request for public records by the Auditor of State’s office. Auditor Dave Yost reported the results today in recognition of Sunshine Week.
“The good news is, 6 out of 10 cities responded to our request within the reasonable time we specified,” Auditor Yost said. “Many of them did it in only one or two days, several even the same day.
“The bad news is, far too many cities failed timely response. A very few failed to respond at all, despite three additional requests.”
The Auditor of State’s office made a request for payroll records of all 247 cities in Ohio in October, as part of an effort to evaluate the format of electronic records and the ease of use and access to payroll records, which typically represent the majority of spending by local governments.
The information sought is an important part of financial reporting and is frequently used in performance audits. Pay has also been the subject of a number of private public records requests during the past few years and various data reporting efforts by governments around the country. Among concerns raised by the Auditor is inconsistency of format and reporting data that does not allow for “apples to apples” comparisons.
In 2004, more than 90 people from newspapers, radio stations, two Ohio universities and the Associated Press conducted a statewide “sunshine audit” in all 88 Ohio counties, concluding that only about 50 percent of all requests were complied with.
“Those reporters made their requests as members of the public, in order to test the system,” Yost said. “Within the reasonable time, we were only 10 points better than 2004, and we asked as the Auditor of State. If my office gets only 60 percent, what is the response rate for a lone citizen?”
Yost said his office is examining options to make reporting basic data easier for local governments, with the goal of both reducing local government costs and improving response time.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.