FOX19 Investigates: How accessible are your public officials? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

FOX19 Investigates: How accessible are your public officials?

State Senator Bill Seitz responded to the question. He says he tries hard to answer questions from the public and read his emails. (FOSX19 NOW) State Senator Bill Seitz responded to the question. He says he tries hard to answer questions from the public and read his emails. (FOSX19 NOW)
State Attorney General Mike DeWine says the public has a right to expect open government. (FOX19 NOW) State Attorney General Mike DeWine says the public has a right to expect open government. (FOX19 NOW)
Students from three universities including the University of Cincinnati contacted all of Ohio's state senators and representatives asking their opinion on the move to legalize marijuana. Only 18 percent responded. (FOX19 NOW) Students from three universities including the University of Cincinnati contacted all of Ohio's state senators and representatives asking their opinion on the move to legalize marijuana. Only 18 percent responded. (FOX19 NOW)
Only 18 percent of Ohio state legislators responded to a recent survey by Ohio constituents run in time for Sunshine Week, this week's national celebration of open government and access to public officials and records.

Students from the University of Cincinnati, Youngstown State University, and the University of Akron contacted all 33 state senators and 99 state representatives in the Buckeye State asking their opinion of the move to legalize marijuana. Of the 132 total Ohio legislators, only 24 responded with any answer at all.

“I feel like I should have heard from someone but at the same time they might be very busy, but I am disappointed,” said University of Cincinnati Electronic Media student Zach Muller.

State Senator Bill Seitz is one the few who did respond to the question. “Legislators are busy and many of them do not have adequate staff,” he said, but “People are entitled to answers and I try to give them straight answers... I think it's an important part of the job.”

Seitz says he knows he's in the minority. “In my experience many of the senators and reps don't even read the emails that come into the office. I think that's a mistake,” he said.

Attorney General Mike DeWine agrees. “I think elected officials owe the public an answer to a question, do you support this or do you support that,” he said.

DeWine says citizens have a right to open government. Those rights are spelled out in a free manual called the “Yellow Book” that you can get from the Attorney General's office. “There's this relationship that exists between elected officials and the public, and it's important for elected officials I think to be very open,” DeWine said.

Newspapers and television stations including Fox19 file public records requests daily, sometimes with successful results, sometimes not, fighting for access to public information and officials just like those students and all citizens.

Check out our spreadsheet of legislator calls to see which elected officials responded and which didn't:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tzs7B7anpiBWFU8n70NbS0tbT2FlV90O3Jfy9W7qlCE/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1#gid=148308578


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