High Court rules against city of Akron's records destruction

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The city of Akron could be forced to pay $860,000 for destroying records that documented how much time off two secretaries earned, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

The court's 4-3 decision said that the 860 time sheets were each an individual document under the state's open records law and not part of a bigger record, meaning the city must pay $1,000 for the destruction of each document.

The court clarified state law regarding the destruction of public records at the request of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which is hearing Akron's appeal of a federal jury's decision in the secretaries' favor.

The secretaries used the time sheets to record how much time off they were owed as part of an informal system for awarding the time in lieu of overtime pay. The worked in the city's permits and plans division where another employee destroyed the records after the city ended the practice.

The women sued Akron for their unpaid time off and alleged the records were destroyed to thwart their efforts.

Each of the employees' time sheets had an independent role in documenting how a public office functioned, as defined under Ohio's public records laws, said Justice Maureen O'Connor, writing for the majority.

She was joined by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and justices Alice Robie Resnick and Paul Pfeifer.

In a dissent, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger said the time sheets only documented the office's function when they were combined into one file. She was joined by justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Terrence O'Donnell.

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