What Are They Hiding? Ohio Health Dept. Says FOIA Requests Can Be Delayed Until 90 Days After COVID-19 Emergency Ends

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The Ohio Department of Health is dragging its feet on an Ohio public records request from a public policy group seeking information about models used by the health director to make decisions related to the state’s COVID-19 response. In delaying the request, the health department cited an obscure passage tucked into a bill passed in March and signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine, which they say allows them to delay records requests until 90 days after the current state of emergency is lifted. Senate Leader Larry Obhoff says they’re misinterpreting the language and improperly denying the request.

In April, the Ohio Roundtable, a division of the American Policy Roundtable, filed a Freedom of Information request with Dr. Amy Acton, who was the director of health at the time. The purpose of the request, according to the nonpartisan public policy group, “is to permit all Ohioans to ‘see the math’ behind the construction of Dr. Acton’s latest model, which is controlling public policy decisions in Ohio,” including mandatory business and school closures and stay-at-home orders.

DeWine and officials at the Ohio Department of Health have been under fire in recent months for what many consider to be their heavy-handed approach to the virus and the lack of transparency coming from state government about how decisions that affect the lives of 11.69 million Ohioans are being made.

“From the start of this crisis, Dr. Acton’s models have driven public policy in Ohio,” said Rob Walgate, vice president of the American Policy Roundtable, in an April 3 press release. “These policies are now creating tremendous hardships across the state at every level. Unemployment is skyrocketing, civil liberties are evaporating, people are being spied upon, harassed and threatened with arrest for standing too close to each other.”

“While promising transparency, Dr. Acton has openly admitted to ‘guesstimating’ on her numbers,” he added. “Now, her latest model is buried in secrecy at Ohio State University and no one is permitted to see the math.” The lack of transparency led the organization to file a formal records request, which, by law, must be fulfilled “promptly” and within “a reasonable period of time.” – READ MORE

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