Ohio’s first-term Treasurer Josh Mandel, who lost his bid this year to deny incumbent Democratic senator Sherrod Brown a second term in what was widely seen as one of the nastiest and most expenses races in the country, lost another decision, this time to a group of progressive political bloggers who won a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court that directed Mandel to cover costs associated with the request of public records that his office fought for months on end to thwart.
On September 15th, 2012, the politically provocative blogging Website Plunderbund filed a complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court against Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for failing to respond to a public record request. A report on the decision said it was settled in December when Mr.. Mandel agreed to turn over the requested records and to pay $5,250 in combined court costs, attorney’s fees and damages.
The heart of the case revolved around a record request filed on March 15, 2012 that sought a list of other public records requests Mandel’s office had received, along with information about the requestor and responses, including communication between his office and the person or people making the request, according to court documents supplied by Plunderbund.
“Despite over a dozen attempts to communicate with his office, Mandel and his team refused to respond to the request or to our follow-up emails, calls or letters for nearly six months,” one of the dozen bloggers that write at Plunderbund posted. The Treasurer’s office, the report said, finally responded by denying the request, then once legal counsel was obtained, Mandel threatened to sue. That’s when the Website filed a mandamus complaint with the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Office of Ohio Attorney General, which represents state agencies including the Treasurer’s office, approached Plunderbund to work out a deal, which resulted in Mandel’s office finally fulfilling the request. On December 14th, after nearly nine months, the documents were received and a final agreement was signed.
According to Ohio public record laws, officeholders are required to respond within a reasonable amount of time regardless of who is doing the requesting. Plunderbund has earned a reputation for taking on Republican candidates and issues, but whether that is why Mr. Mandel’s office dragged its feet is not known. In addition to Mandel’s office, the blog said it made the same request to other offices and received information from them without resorting to suing them. “And everyone responded sufficiently, including John Kasich, who has without-a-doubt received more negative coverage from us than Mandel,” Joseph wrote.
“Plunderbund is unabashedly political – it’s what we do. And we’re proud to be one of the strongest progressive voices in Ohio,” the report unabashedly claimed. Joseph added, “While this sometimes means publishing negative things about public figures like Mandel and even fellow Democrats, we also take great strides to be honest and professional – especially in our personal and business dealings behind the scenes. And we expect the same from Ohio’s public office holders and their staff, regardless of how they feel about us personally or which party they belong to.”
The plaintiffs complimented the AG’s attorney on the case, who they described as “knowledgeable and extremely professional in working with us to settle the case.
The thrill of victory always beats the agony of defeat, and Plunderbund enjoyed its victory while promising more of the same. “We aren’t just a bunch of pajama-wearing bloggers who can be ignored and pushed around. Our dozen-plus regular contributing writers cover the spectrum from small business owner to software engineer to retired journalist. Many of our writers have been covering politics in Ohio long before Josh Mandel was running for Student Council President and some before Mandel was even born. And we’ll be around long after young Josh becomes President of the United States or slinks away into political obscurity.”
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