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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Portsmouth Part of Ohio's "D" Score In Access to Information

"Ohio earned a 'D' in the recent State Integrity Investigation
looking at transparency, accountability and anti-corruption
mechanisms in place in all 50 states. The state fared poorly
in the area of effective access to information."

("How bright are Ohio's Sunshine Laws in Southwest Ohio?" WVXU - Cincinnati)

As I continue to ponder the reason for receiving a redacted incident report from the Portsmouth Police Department, I learned that corruption in the area of access to information is widespread not only in my town but in the entire Buckeye State.

Ohio ranks 34th with a grade of D and a score of 66 from the State Integrity Investigation, a collaborative project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

Of particular interest to me is the poor grade of C- in the area I am investigating: "Public Access to Information." Here are some interesting findings of the State Integrity Investigation:

* Question: "In practice, do citizens receive responses to access to information requests within a reasonable time period?" Answer: 50%

* Question: "In practice, are responses to information requests are of high quality?" Answer: 50%

* Question: "In practice, can citizens resolve appeals to access to information requests within a reasonable time period?" Answer: 50%

* Question: "In practice, when necessary, does the agency that monitors the application of access to information laws and regulations independently initiate investigations?" Answer: 0%

* Question: "In practice, when necessary, does the agency that monitors the application of access to information laws and regulations impose penalties on offenders? Answer: 0%

Corruption is not confined to taking bribes. The definition of political and judicial corruption exceeds this simplistic explanation. Corruption describes any organized, interdependent system in which part of the system is either not performing duties it was originally intended to, or performing them in an improper way, to the detriment of the system's original purpose. The abuse of public offices for private gain is a normal pattern of such corruption.

Corrupt judicial systems that are free to thrive not only violate the basic right to equality before the law but also deny procedural rights guaranteed by the Ohio and the United States constitutions. The tyranny administered by any part of a local government gone unchecked dooms the citizenry to improper justice.

The right of people to access pertinent, honest information must be upheld. When the truth is cloaked or altered or denied, some nefarious purpose is to blame. Deep within the walls of city hall lie secrets that an administration intends to keep private from public view.

I realize no internal investigation will aid my search for answers. Public servants spend more time obscuring the facts and spinning the truth than they do scrubbing their own environment. The dirty façade on Second Street stands as a visible symbol of what lies within. It is a crumbling, unattended edifice with little sign of care. Despite the flower arrangements that poorly obscure the need of repair, residents of Portsmouth know what infects the workings inside.

I feel it is so sad that anyone who does complain is labeled as a "conspiracy nut" or as a "troublemaker" or as an "enemy." Generations of my family have lived here and fought to preserve the common good. What a shame that any plea or question about needed change is seen as an intrusion by "outsiders." I feel honest attempts by the public to communicate with city hall are viewed as serious impediments to business as usual. Is it any wonder Ohio gets a grade of "D" in transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms 
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