November 20, 2014

Elyria
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Open records request too broad, county official says

ELYRIA — Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams’ public records request for emails and text messages between his fellow commissioners and other county employees is overly broad, according to county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office.

In an opinion released Friday, Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes wrote that because of the nature of Williams’ request, it would be difficult to gather all of the information he wants and provide it to him.

“I would respond that you are unable to honor his request as it is overly broad,” Innes wrote to Commissioner Ted Kalo. “However, indicate that you wish to cooperate in helping him locate information he is seeking.”

Williams requested electronic communications between Kalo, Commissioner Lori Kokoski, county Administrator Jim Cordes and their assistants between Oct. 22 and Thursday.

He said Friday that he has already received the information from Cordes’ office and believes that county IT employees will be able to quickly search for and provide him with all the documents he’s seeking.

Innes said that if there’s a way for the county’s email system to search sent and received emails by name and provide those documents to Williams he would revise his opinion, but he said he has not yet talked with county IT workers to determine whether that’s the case.

In his opinion, Innes wrote Williams “will have to understand that he cannot expect you to search through myriads of documents that are not indexed on the basis of the source of communication.”

Kalo said Friday that he probably received thousands of emails, including items he was copied on, during the time frame Williams is seeking. He said he’s willing to give Williams the information he’s looking for, but it would be unreasonable to search through every email he’s received over a 2½-month period.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said.

Williams said he took issue with Kalo’s characterization a day earlier of the public records request as a result of him being paranoid.

He said he is seeking specific emails in which county Special Projects Director Karen Davis may have been ordered not to attend a meeting he held last month with other public officials at the Lorain County Transportation Center. Williams said a high-ranking county official told him that such emails existed.

“I’m not paranoid. I’m not on a fishing expedition,” he said.

Williams’ request comes just weeks after he and his fellow commissioners engaged in a fierce budget battle over whether to lay off their assistants. Williams, a Republican, had pushed to keep the assistants, but was outvoted by Kalo and Kokoski, both Democrats.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.