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Collective bargaining contracts cannot contain destruction clauses

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Collective bargaining contracts cannot contain destruction clauses

  • The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s Public Records Act supercedes any “conflicting provision in a collective bargaining agreement” that allows for the destruction of public documents.

Nov. 12, 2003 — Collective bargaining agreements cannot contain provisions that allow for the destruction of public documents, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week. In doing so, the court clarified a point of contention in a suit between the The Columbus Dispatch and the Columbus Police Department, and sent the case back to the trial court.

In January 2000, the Dispatch sued the city of Columbus under the state’s Public Records Act to obtain police disciplinary records that were scheduled to be destroyed in accordance with a contractual agreement between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city.

The Court of Common Pleas in Columbus ruled in favor of the newspaper, and in September 2000 the state Supreme Court affirmed that decision, granting the Dispatch immediate access to the records. However, the issue of whether or not a contract can create a timetable for the destruction of public documents remained unresolved.

In August 2001, the trial court dismissed that case, saying the contract followed the city’s schedule for retaining records. An appeals court overturned the dismissal on the grounds that the contract violated the Ohio Public Records Act, a decision the state Supreme Court affirmed Nov. 5.

The Supreme Court added that the Public Records Act supercedes any “conflicting provision in a collective bargaining agreement.” In addition, the court held, the Public Records Act stipulates that a person can seek injunctive relief when faced with the threat of destroyed public documents.

With that, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Court of Common Pleas in Columbus for trial to determine whether the Fraternal Order of Police contracts violated state law.

Said Frank Deaner, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, “This decision obviously makes it very clear that the public records law in the state trumps anything that can happen within union negotiations.”

(Keller v. Columbus; Counsel: Frederick M. Gittes and Kathaleen B. Schulte, Columbus) AS

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