by Andy Brownfield
Suit claims governor is intentionally ignoring public records requests
The Ohio Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit against Gov.
John Kasich — who they claim is improperly using his office to campaign
for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney — to get the
governor to release his schedule of public events.
The ODP’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the Franklin County
Court of Common Pleas, contends that Kasich’s office either ignored or
only partially fulfilled the request.
“It’s unfortunate that this Governor is so opposed to
transparency and public disclosure that we have to ask the Court to
force him to follow the law,” ODP Chairman Chris Redfern said in a
“Serious questions remain regarding whether the Governor
has improperly used his office for the benefit of Mitt Romney, and it’s
deeply disappointing Kasich is so secretive he won’t even tell the
public what he’s done or where he’s gone.”
Kasich press secretary Rob Nichols said the administration
doesn’t comment on litigation, but dismissed the Ohio Democratic
“We release public records in accordance with the law, and
in fact have already publicly released the governor’s schedule six
times, including a schedule request to the ODP,” Nichols said.
“This is predictable election year politics from the same
people who were just rebuked for using public records demands to
interfere with the Auditor of State’s investigation into possible data
manipulation in some school districts.”
Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said Kasich’s
office did respond to one of the seven requests for the schedule, but
some of the information in the records was redacted — including an
entire week that was blacked out with no explanation.
“Ohio law is very clear, and it states you have to give a specific excuse when you redact something,” Kurtz said.
According to the lawsuit and court documents, the ODP
requested on July 2 Kasich’s public schedule from that date through Aug.
According to a letter to the Ohio Democratic Party from
Mehek M. Cook — assistant chief counsel to Kasich — the information
about the governor's future plans was blacked out because that information
could put him at risk.
“The governor and his office receive threats on any given
day and the release of his whereabouts increases security issues
surrounding the governor’s safety,” Cook wrote.
Cook wrote that any information in the records used by the
Executive Protection Unit assigned to guard Kasich constitutes a
security record and was redacted.
He also wrote that some information that would reveal
confidential business meetings and trade secrets that would harm Ohio
efforts to court businesses was blacked out. Additionally, information
not relevant to the request was redacted.
Kurtz said it’s important that the public have access
those schedules because voters have a right to know what their governor
is doing on the public dime.
The schedules include where the governor is and with whom
he meets, but they also show scheduled phone calls and media interviews.
The Ohio Democratic Party worries that Kasich is
improperly campaigning for Romney while receiving a taxpayer-funded
paycheck, or using public money to have his staff do so.
The concerns stem from statements made by Kasich both in
public and on his Twitter account either praising the presumed
Republican presidential nominee or slamming President Obama.
For instance, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported that when Obama visited Ohio on Aug. 1 the governor tweeted “On
the occasion of the President's latest visit to Ohio, we have a
question for him,” with a link to a graphic asking “If the President's
policies are behind Ohio's success, why is the rest of the country
Democrats claim that Ohio’s success relative to the rest
of the country are due to efforts by President Obama, while Republicans
say Governor Kasich is behind Ohio’s faster-than-average recovery.
While the Ohio Democratic Party is suing to have Kasich
release his public schedule (Kurtz says Attorney General Mike DeWine and
Auditor Dave Yost complied with similar requests in a timely manner)
the state Republican Party has also submitted similar requests to
Democrats throughout Ohio.
Kurtz characterized the GOP requests as being sent by
Kasich’s “hand-picked lieutenants in the Ohio Republican Party,” though
Nichols told The Plain Dealer that the governor had no involvement.
Ohio GOP executive director Matt Borges told the newspaper that the requests were routine.
Still, Kurtz called Kasich’s refusal to release his own schedule “hypocritical.”
“He’s a bully and the only way you can deal with a bully is fighting back.”