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Gov. Candidates Kasich, FitzGerald Face Similar Legal Battles

By Nick Swartsell · July 15th, 2014 · City Desk

Both Gov. John Kasich and gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald are fighting lawsuits over records related to scheduling and security. And while the press and opposing political parties push for disclosure, both are fighting to keep those records private. 

The Ohio GOP is suing FitzGerald, currently Cuyahoga County’s executive, over access to records detailing his comings and goings at county parking garages. The suit comes after Northeast Ohio Media Group, which owns the Cleveland Plain Dealer, first requested the records in April to ascertain how much time FitzGerald is spending campaigning while on the job as Cuyahoga County executive.

The GOP’s lawsuit is filed with the Ohio Supreme Court and holds that FitzGerald’s records are public information that must be released. FitzGerald says the records of his keycard swipes at county buildings are security-sensitive information and that they need to be closely held because he’s had security concerns, including death threats, related to his job and his past work in law enforcement. 

Ironically, his opponent, Kasich, is fighting much the same fight.

He has refused to release information about his schedule and security threats made against him and is also facing a suit in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.

That suit has roots in a 2012 request by the Ohio Democratic Party for Kasich’s daily schedule. The governor’s office denied that request, citing threats made against the governor. Liberal-leaning political blog Plunderbund then requested records of those threats, kept by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and were denied. The blog then filed a suit with the Ohio Supreme Court for access to the records.

Kasich’s attorneys argue the records are exempt from Ohio’s public records laws, since they deal with security. 

“Under the unique circumstances of this case, the State has a compelling interest in protecting the Governor’s safety and security that necessarily outweighs the public interest in accessing its government’s records,” the state’s attorneys said in a brief to the court last October. But Plunderbund’s attorney says that’s not the case and that the records must be made public.

The Ohio Supreme Court could take months to reach a decision in both cases. FitzGerald says he’s playing by the same rules Kasich is. He called the GOP’s suit against him a political tactic and said, like the governor’s office, he has a need to protect himself.

“I release the same amount or more information about my whereabouts as the governor does,” he said earlier this month. “Issues about security are real and they are serious.”


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