The Ohio Court of Claims’ deadline ordering Liberty Township officials to release notes compiled by Cincinnati attorney Douglas Duckett was fulfilled as of 3 p.m. Friday.
Judge Patrick M. McGrath wrote in his order, “Respondent shall deliver a copy of the ‘Duckett notes,’ with redaction based on any applicable public records exceptions, to requesters’ service address on or before November 3, 2017.” The order is the result of a motion filed on behalf of township residents Jim Hurt and Mark Gerber to compel the township to release the notes.
Township officials emailed PDF copies of the notes to Jim Hurt, Mark Gerber, and The Gazette. The Gazette staff is reviewing the notes.
“I got to go, my phone won’t stop ringing,” Hurt said while talking with The Gazette about receiving the notes.
Duckett was hired by trustees in March 2016 to investigate the conduct of the township’s former Fire Chief Tim Jensen. Duckett compiled the notes to complete his final report to trustees.
Hurt and Gerber began requesting the Duckett notes in May 2016. After their repeated requests were denied by officials, the two residents filed a claim with the Ohio Court of Claims, which delivered its decision March 29 determining the notes to be public documents.
Township attorney Stephanie Schoolcraft filed an appeal with the Fifth District Court on June 5 asking the court to review “whether the personal notes of a non-employee private citizen appointed pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code are public records even though the personal notes were not provided to, maintained, or used by … Liberty Township.”
The Fifth District affirmed the lower courts ruling April 8.
Stated in the court’s affirmation, “We have already concluded that under both the functional equivalency test and the quasi-agency test, Duckett prepared records in order to carry out a public office’s responsibilities, Liberty township monitored Duckett’s performance and Liberty Township had access to the records.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.