City of Blue Ash Reponse to Public Records Lawsuit Ruling

Blue Ash, OH (3/2/2017) – The City of Blue Ash is disappointed with the court’s decision in State of Ohio, ex rel. The Community Press v. the City of Blue Ash (Case No. A1604055). The newspaper sued the City in June of 2016 after requesting copies of employee questionnaires that the City believes are not public record.

In 2014, the City of Blue Ash contracted with InnerSummit to conduct a confidential employee development exercise. Employees were asked to complete questionnaires regarding the internal performance of select Blue Ash staff members, and they were told the documents would remain private. The results were intended to be shared only with the respective individual staff member being evaluated for self-assessment and professional development. The product was never shared with anyone besides the participating employee, included in the employee’s personnel file, or used to make any personnel decisions. The City believes the questionnaires are not a matter of public record.

“While I am saddened by the judge’s ruling, I can say with confidence that the City is committed to complete and total adherence to the Ohio Public Records Act. The City pursued the questionnaires with only the best intentions, and any accusations to the contrary are inaccurate,” said City of Blue Ash Assistant City Manager Kelly Harrington.

Judge Steven Martin acknowledged this as a “case of first impression” during arguments, meaning the court hasn’t addressed a specific issue such as this before.

In reference to the actions of the City of Blue Ash, we appreciate Judge Martin’s conclusion that, “To be clear, the defendant’s position on the law is incorrect. However, it is not unreasonable given the case law as it exists.” The judge also noted that key documents in question have been retained.

The City intends to appeal the judge’s decision and remains committed to operating under a high-level of openness and honesty.