DeWine: Counties Can’t Charge for Online Access to Public Records
Earlier this month, Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an advisory opinion that counties may not charge fees to access online copies of public records.
In the opinion, DeWine’s office noted that Ohio’s public records law requires that public records be made available for inspection and that, when requested, copies of the records must be made available at cost.
The Attorney General’s office determined that providing access to online documents is equivalent to allowing the documents to be inspected. Therefore, since the records were only being made available for inspection and were not copies, the county was not permitted to charge a fee.
The opinion was prompted by the Monroe County Auditor’s Office, which had contracted with a private company to provide online access to public records. The county charged users a monthly $15 subscription fee to access the records.