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City office must release information from minors' I.D. cards

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City office must release information from minors' I.D. cards 02/08/99 OHIO--Information compiled by a city recreation department in the course…

City office must release information from minors’ I.D. cards

02/08/99

OHIO–Information compiled by a city recreation department in the course of issuing identification cards to minors constitutes a public record and must be released, a state appellate court in Columbus held in late December.

Writing for the 2-1 majority, Presiding Judge Charles Petree noted that the trial court incorrectly held that the information was not a public record. The lower court also erred in holding that emergency medical information collected by the department was a medical record, Petree added.

In an effort to reduce unruly behavior at city recreation facilities, the City of Columbus began issuing photo identification cards in 1996 to children wanting to use the city’s swimming pools. Prior to issuing cards, the city collected information including the child’s name, address, and emergency medical and contact information from the child’s parent or guardian.

The case was brought by Cornell McCleary, who had requested a copy of the data in order to recruit young adults for an urban youth outreach campaign. The city’s recreation department rejected his request because it had promised that none of the information it collected would be released or used for any purpose other than the identification program.

The appellate court found that the identification information was compiled in order to better monitor and control access to city pools and recreational facilities. It found that the data clearly constituted information which served to document the government’s “organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations or other activities,” and was therefore a public record.

The trial court also erred when it held that the information qualified as a “medical record” and was therefore not subject to disclosure, Petree wrote. Although the database contained medical information, that information was not generated or maintained in the process of providing medical treatment, as required by the medical records exemption in the state open records laws.

Finally, the court held that the city’s promises of confidentiality were of no legal significance, noting that the Ohio courts have repeatedly invalidated promises of confidentiality where the material is otherwise a public record.

In a dissent, Judge Peggy Bryant argued that the information should not be released because its dissemination violated the children’s privacy and left them vulnerable. “The high potential for victimization caused by the release of the personal information data outweighs any information about government processes to be gained by the release,” Bryant opined. (State of Ohio ex rel. McCleary v. Roberts)