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$1,000 for Ohio Public Record Destruction; Party Must Intend to Obtain Record to Collect

The Ohio Supreme Court held that a party may not prevail on a suit for destruction of public records unless they actually intend to obtain the records in question.

In July, 2007, Timothy Rhodes made public records requests of several Ohio police departments for dispatch records from 1975 to 1995, on a defunct reel-to-reel recording system. When the departments informed him that the recordings had not been retained, Rhodes sought $1,000 for each improperly destroyed recording, under R.C. § 149.351 (B). That statute permits an "aggrieved party" to "recover a forfeiture… of one thousand dollars for each violation and… reasonable attorney's fees" for improperly destroyed public records.

A jury concluded that Rhodes was not aggrieved, because he "feigned his intent to access public records when his actual intent was to seek forfeiture awards." The Ohio Supreme Court agreed that "a party is not aggrieved by the destruction of a record when the party's objective in requesting the record is not to obtain the record but to seek a forfeiture for the wrongful destruction of the record." See: Rhodes v. The City of New Philadelphia, 129 Ohio St.3d 304, 2011-Ohio-3279.

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Related legal case

Rhodes v. The City of New Philadelphia