Ohio’s Supreme Court continues to have to remind publicly created entities that they are, in fact, public. They are, therefore, subject to public records requests no matter how much they might prefer to keep their records hidden.
Most recently, the state Supreme Court ruled the Ohio FAIR Plan Underwriting Association — created by state lawmakers in 1968 — must give its records to a housing discrimination advocacy group, according to a report by WCMH-TV in Columbus.
It was a unanimous ruling.
The FAIR Plan was intended by lawmakers to underwrite policies for people who otherwise might not be able to get property or homeowners’ insurance. During the late 1960s, the concern was applicants being rejected in urban areas. So lawmakers created a group with a 12-member board of governors –including four appointed by the governor.
“The government’s undertaking of a function through an entity established by law necessarily makes that function a function of government, even if the function is not historically governmental,” wrote Justice Michael Donnelly, according to WCMH.
For now, the FAIR Plan office is being given a chance to make up for its mistakes by resolving the records requests made by Fair Housing Opportunities of Northwest Ohio, going back to April 2020. But they are not even the first such entity this year the state Supreme Court has had to order to fulfill records requests. A similar unanimous ruling was handed down to the OneOhio Recovery Foundation just a few months ago.
Bureaucrats, and the lawmakers who think they’ve found a loophole to avoid government transparency by creating these quasi-governmental associations and foundations, must remember the court’s two rulings. They can wrap it up in a different package and give it a private-ish sounding name, but an organization created by the government to do the public’s work is still meant to serve the public and not itself. It must be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as the rest of our government.