Date set for public records trial regarding Taylor Road rehabilitation project
To the Editor:
A common pleas judge has rejected an attempt by the City of Cleveland Heights to block a public records case from going to trial.
[We], Cleveland Heights residents Douglas Whipple and Susan Tuck-Whipple, had submitted two public records requests to the city in 2011--before the project began. They sought records relating to the conduct of city council and the administration leading up to the rehabilitation of Taylor Road. The project narrowed South Taylor Road and allocated all of the resulting green space to the commercial east side of the street and none to the residential west side.
[We] had complained that the city authorized the construction project without proper notice to the public; and that the city and ODOT failed to conduct an environmental impact hearing. They had requested records to substantiate these claims.
The city argued in its motion that the residents were not entitled to a trial because the requested records were either eventually delivered or did not exist. The residents responded that the city never delivered some existing materials, and failed to deliver others until after months of improper delay--and then only after the lawsuit had been filed.
The judge ruled that the residents are entitled to a trial to determine whether the city violated the Ohio Public Records Act. The judge also gave the residents permission to question Robert Downey, former city manager, under oath about the failure to conduct the environmental impact hearing. The full opinion of the judge may be found at www.whipple-law.com. Trial is scheduled to take place the week of Aug. 12, 2013.
Both sides are discussing the possibility of an out-of-court settlement. As part of these discussions, the residents are asking the city to agree to improve the content of its written public records policy and to ensure that the proper city officials and employees have obtained adequate training in responding to public records requests.
The State of Ohio and other cities have excellent public records policies available for the city to use as models. The adoption of an improved and accessible public records policy would benefit the city and its citizens, as well. It would represent a win-win outcome to the Taylor Road lawsuit.
[Editor's note: The letter above was submitted by Cleveland Heights residents Douglas Whipple and Susan Tuck-Whipple, who have an ongoing complaint against the City of Cleveland Heights over its conduct in planning the repaving of S. Taylor Road near Severance Center. While the Whipples' complaint began during the planning stages, the project was completed last year.
We contacted the city to ask for the its response, and this was the city's reply: "This case is in court and the city has no response out of respect to the judicial process."]
Douglas Whipple is an 18-year resident of Cleveland Heights. He can be reached at email@example.com. He is solely responsible for the information expressed here.