John Meyer: Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

It’s Thursday, and time to confer our 18th Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week award.

Today, we bestow this honor on John Meyer of Mason, Ohio who, if nothing else, has greatly troubled a number of people with an open records request.

Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week

Meyer heads a group called CARE, or “Citizens for Accountability and Results in Education”.

According to an article in the Cincinatti Enquirer, Parents angry about records, Meyer and his organization asked for records detailing the content of emails sent to the school by parents that, in his view, are “puppets and mouthpieces” for the school.

Much anger has ensued, mostly from the unsuspecting parents who almost certainly would not have realized that by sending an email to a public school district, that e-mail became a matter of public record.

  • Scott Ebright, spokesman for the Ohio School Boards Association, said the request “does fall within the letter” of Ohio’s law, but violates its “spirit”. Ebright also feels the request is “pernicious”.
  • One parent whose e-mails are sought says that CARE “seems to be taking the low road here.”
  • Another parent says she feels she is being “harrassed”.
  • Another parent is “very angry”.
  • The reason that state-level open records law include documents provided to a public agency by citizens and organizations who don’t work for the agency–such as emails sent in to someone within the system–as part of what is defined as “public” is because, otherwise, it would be impossible for interested citizens to determine who is trying to influence members of the public agency and how they’re trying to do so.

    If Coca-Cola sent e-mails to a school district to encourage the district to carry Coca-Cola products in its vending machines, this is and should be a matter of public record. Citizens should be able to see those e-mails.

    Similarly, if parents or taxpayers of a school district are sending e-mails to a district in pursuit of one goal or another, those are also public records. (E-mails concerning children and students are, of course, exempt.)

    John, a tip of the STOTW hat to you.

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