On September 15th, 2012 Plunderbund Media LLC filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court against Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for failing to respond to a public record request. The case was settled this month when Mandel agreed to turn over the requested records and to pay our court costs, attorney’s fees and damages.
According to the final agreement, Mandel will pay a total settlement amount of $5,250, the bulk of which will go to pay our excellent attorney Victoria Ullmann.
The record request in question was filed on March 15, 2012 and asked simply for a list of other public record requests Mandel’s office had received, along with information about the requestor and responses, including communication between his office and the person or people making the request. Despite over a dozen attempts to communicate with his office, Mandel and his team refused to respond to the request or to our follow-up emails, calls or letters for nearly six months.
The Treasurer’s office finally responded by denying the request once we obtained legal counsel and threatened to sue. So we went forward as promised, filing a mandamus complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court.
After a series of back and forth document exchanges (they can be all be found on the Ohio Supreme Court website) we were eventually approached by the Ohio Attorney General’s office attorney assigned to represent Josh Mandel. Within a few days we had an agreement and, at the advice of their attorney, Mandel’s office finally fulfilled the request. On December 14th we received the documents and signed a final agreement, one day short of nine months from our original request.
We’re still not sure why Mandel and his staff ignored our repeated requests and only responded to our lawyer, but we assume it has something to do with our less-than-favorable political coverage of Mr. Mandel. Ohio’s public record laws require all officeholders to respond within a reasonable amount of time regardless of who is doing the requesting. Every other statewide office holder in Ohio received the same request from us. And everyone responded sufficiently, including John Kasich, who has without-a-doubt received more negative coverage from us than Mandel.
Plunderbund is unabashedly political – it’s what we do. And we’re proud to be one of the strongest progressive voices in Ohio. While this sometimes means publishing negative things about public figures like Mandel and even fellow Democrats, we also take great strides to be honest and professional – especially in our personal and business dealings behind the scenes. And we expect the same from Ohio’s public office holders and their staff, regardless of how they feel about us personally or which party they belong to.
We do feel like there was one bright spot in this story, and that came from AG’s office attorney Damian Sikora who was knowledgeable and extremely professional in working with us to settle the case. Mandel and his people could learn a thing or two from the AG’s office about the importance of hiring and retaining quality, experienced staff like Mr. Sikora who are familiar with Ohio’s public records laws.
They should also take away a new-found understanding about new media companies like Plunderbund.com.
We aren’t just a bunch of pajama-wearing bloggers who can be ignored and pushed around. Our dozen-plus regular contributing writers cover the spectrum from small business owner to software engineer to retired journalist. Many of our writers have been covering politics in Ohio long before Josh Mandel was running for Student Council President and some before Mandel was even born. And we’ll be around long after young Josh becomes President of the United States or slinks away into political obscurity.
Mandel’s team made their point. And we hope we made ours as well.
And while we may disagree about a hell of a lot of stuff, we sincerely hope we can maintain a civil and professional relationship going forward when it comes to public records from the current owners/tenants of Ohio’s State Treasurer’s Office.