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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ohio Paper Isn’t Entitled to Investigative Report

(CN) - An Ohio newspaper lost its bid to view an investigative report into an affair that cost a port authority official his job. The Ohio Supreme Court held that the report is shielded by attorney-client privilege.

James Hartung was president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the administrator of a consortium of Northwest Ohio government entities, which employed Kathy Tiegland as a lobbyist.

Last year, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner told the authority that Hartung was having an affair with Tiegland and may have improperly funneled money to her.

After conducting an investigation, the authority fired Hartung on Aug. 1. That day, the Toledo Blade newspaper asked the authority for a copy of the investigation.

The authority refused, citing attorney-client privilege. After a second request, the authority delivered supporting documents, but not the actual investigative report. The newspaper asked the Ohio Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus.

In a per-curiam decision, the justices ruled that the port authority was not required to give the documents to the newspaper.

"Because the report is excepted from disclosure under the Public Records Act by the attorney-client privilege and the port authority has already provided access to the requested additional documentation, we deny the writ."

The justices added that the documents the authority has provided are sufficient for the newspaper's reporting needs.

"The port authority responded," they wrote, "by making available to The Blade thousands of documents, including all public records reviewed by the attorneys in connection with the preparation of the investigative report."

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