PUBLIC RECORDS RETENTION POLICY

OVERVIEW

As a public office of State of Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department is subject to the Ohio Public Records Act (ORC 149.43), which provides for prompt inspection of public records and requires that copies of existing public records be provided in a reasonable period of time. Compliance with the Public Records Act is subject to audit by the State Auditor.


The purpose of this policy is to provide employees of the Lawrence County Health Department with information regarding the Public Records Act, to establish procedure for responding to request for public records, and to establish procedures for maintenance of departmental records and personnel files.

Guidelines

A.) A two-stage analysis required under the Public Records Act to determine what Documents or electronic/recorded information is subject to public access. The first step is to determine if the document or electronic/recorded information qualifies as a "record". ORC Section 149.011(G)defines a "record" to be any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristics, including an electronic record, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office of the state or political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities of the office. Documents or electronic/recorded information that does not document public office activities in this manner are not subject to the Public Records Act and are not subject to public access. For example, an email between employees setting a lunch date does not document county government activities and does not qualify as a "record".
If a document or electronic/recorded information does qualify as a "record" it is then a "public record," subject to public access and disclosure unless it is specifically exempt from disclosure under the terms of the Public Records Act. The second step of the analysis is to determine if any of the statutory exemptions apply to the document or electronic/recorded information. For exam, attorney-client communications are confidential by state law and exempted from disclosure under the terms of the Public Records Act. A list of these exemptions is provided in Appendix A. These exemptions are to be narrowly construed and if a record does not clearly fit into one of these categories of exemptions, it must be released.


B.) A notice describing this Public Records Policy Shall be kept on the shared Z-drive of the health department server. The Lawrence County District Board of Health and the Lawrence County Health Department are jointly responsible for compliance.


C.) Each employee shall follow the Lawrence County Health Department Records Retention Schedule, adopted by the Lawrence County District Board of Health on as well any Records Retention Schedules specific to each department. Records will be disposed only in accordance with the policy and procedures.

D.) In accordance with ORC 149.43, The Lawrence County Health Department Records Commission is comprised of a member of the Lawrence County District Board of Health, the Administrator, Director of Nursing, Environmental Health Director and Fiscal Officer. All members may designate a representative to attend Records Commission meetings on their behalf.

Requests for Public Records

E.) The Lawrence County Health Department shall ensure that all public records requests are promptly prepared and made available for the inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Any questions regarding requests, including what can and cannot be released or redacted, shall be directed to the Department Head who may seek assistance from the Lawrence County Prosecutor's Office. Each department will be responsible for the following:


1.) Designate one employee as the point-of-contact for all records requests;
2.) Maintain a copy of the Lawrence County Records Retention Schedule and/or the departmental schedule and a copy of this policy and procedure for public access and review.


F. ) While it is not required that public records requests be submitted in writing, the requestors are encouraged to submit the requests in writing (using Public Record Request Form or Release of Medical Records Form in the case of a patient's record), in an effort to prevent any misunderstanding as to the records the requestor is seeking. Individuals requesting a public record cannot be forced to provide identification or a reason for the request, and cannot be charged for time and labor spent fulfilling the request. If a requestor makes an overly broad request, or has difficulty in specifying the request, the department employee (point-of-contact) shall provide the requestor with reasonable assistance to facilitate their request, such as providing a copy of the retention schedule and policy and the
opportunity to revise the request. Note: If a request is made in writing, the response must also be in writing.


G.) If a request is denied in whole or in part, the requestor shall be provided, in writing using the Lawrence County Health Department Public Record Request Form, an explanation including the legal authority setting forth why the request was denied. The requestor will be notified (using the Public Record Request Form), if the request is for a record that was never maintained or is no longer maintained (for example record must retention period and was destroyed).


H.) If request includes information that is "exempted" from disclosure, that information must be redacted. The requestor must be notified in writing of what information was redacted and the specific section of the Ohio Revised Code granting legal authority for redaction. (Normally this notification will be made right on the document itself).


I.) In response to a public records request, a maximum of 10 public records per month will be sent by mail unless the requester certifies in writing that such records are not being requested for any commercial purpose as provided in the Ohio Public Records Act.

J.) Payment for the cost of copies may be requested in advance. Payment may be made by cash or a check written out to the Lawrence County Health Department. The charge for copies of public records is as follows (as a cost saving measure, copies should be double sided, unless requested otherwise):


                     All pages twenty-five cents ($.25) per page (double-sided is counted as 1 page).


K.) All instances when assistance is offered to facilitate a request, even if such assistance does not result in the release of records, must also are documented on the Public Record Request Form. The original record request and a copy of the corresponding invoice shall be kept on file by the Lawrence County Health department for two years.