Law not followed in release of Lucas Co. CHL-holders' private information
Ohioans For Concealed Carry has learned that on at least two occasions, Lucas Co. Sheriff James A. Telb's office released the private information of Ohio Concealed Handgun License (CHL)-holders to journalists without having received the proper request forms.
On September 8, 2004, WNWO NBC24 submitted a request "copies of all records" relating to people who have obtained concealed carry permits" to several northwest Ohio sheriffs. That request was honored by Sheriff James A. Telb's office. Shortly thereafter, the private information of 650 CHL-holders was published by NBC24 on its website.
On September 13, OFCC first reported that sources had indicated that NBC24 had not identified in their requests that the information would be in the "public interest", as required by state law. Those sources' statements have now been confirmed.
Click here to view the NBC24's letter to the Fulton Co. Sheriff. (.pdf)
OFCC has confirmed that certain other northwest Ohio sheriffs have or are planning to deny NBC24's Sept. 8 request, advising NBC24 that its request it was not in keeping with the requirements of the statute.
Revised Code Section 2923.129(B)(1) provides that the application materials are not a public record, and are not to be released except in accordance with 2923.129(B)(2). 2923.129(B)(2) specifies the requirements for the release of the records, and provides that the request must be in writing, signed by a journalist, and "shall state that disclosure of the information sought would be in the public interest." Violation of the disclosure laws by the Sheriff is a fifth degree felony, and subjects the offender to a mandatory civil fine of $1,000.00.
OFCC has learned that Lucas Co. Sheriff Telb's office appears to have violated the law by releasing information to journalists who did not meet the requirements of 2923.129(B)(2) not once, but on at least two occasions.
In addition to the release to NBC24, OFCC has learned that an early August request from Toledo City Paper also did not meet the requirements of the law, and should have been denied by the Lucas Co. sheriff. Instead, the information was released, and published on the City Paper's website on August 12.
Click here to view the NBC24's letter to the Lucas Co. Sheriff. (.pdf)
Click here to view the Toledo City Paper's letter to the Lucas Co. Sheriff. (.pdf)
Not only does the law restrict the sheriff's activities, but it also provides that "no person" shall disseminate the records except as provided for in 2923.12(B)(2). As the journalist and the paper disseminated the records without complying with 2923.12(B)(2), they are also guilty of a fifth degree felony, but not subject to the mandatory fine.
As if this weren't enough of a bombshell, OFCC's investigation also turned up what initially appeared to be a possible third violation in Lucas County.
On July 27, a Toledo Blade reporter sent a letter requesting the release of "those who have applied for a Carrying a Concealed Weapon permit in Lucas County" (emphasis added). According to Toledo Blade reporter Erica Blake, Sheriff Telb's office notified her that it was illegal to release the information on who had applied. Blake confirmed to OFCC that Telb did release to her the information on who had obtained licenses.
Click here to view the Toledo Blade's letter to the Lucas Co. Sheriff. (.pdf)
Sheriff Telb is not the first Ohio sheriff to have apparently violated Ohio law with regard to the release of CHL-holders records. Shelby County Sheriff Kevin O'Leary is currently under investigation by a special prosecutor after having released the street addresses of 87 CHL-holders to the Sidney Daily News in June.
Following are excerpts from OFCC's media statement announcing the appointment of the special prosecutor in the Shelby County case, which are more than applicable to these developments in Lucas County:
"Sheriffs don't deserve to be faced with the specter of committing accidental felonies any more than do license-holders who are struggling to comply with the Ohio State Highway Patrol's flawed ‘plain sight’ car-carry language," remarked Jim Irvine, OFCC PAC Chairman. "This loophole is only law because of Bob Taft and a few term-limited Republican senators. On December 17th of last year, in the final hours of debate over House Bill 12, Senator Doug White told Ohio Public Radio that several Republican senators were afraid to override the threat of a Taft veto because they were hoping for job appointments."
"Although our organization considers what O'Leary did to be a serious crime," said Jeff Garvas, President of Ohioans For Concealed Carry, "we feel it is one of numerous instances where Ohio's concealed carry law has made a felony out of something that simply doesn't warrant felony charges."
"We support the sheriffs," stated Garvas. "We are calling upon the General Assembly to remove this useless loophole from the law before Election Day. It is not being used for the supposed reasons it was inserted, and it now threatens to ruin the career of a sheriff and newspaper editor over an alleged accidental felony."