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Ohio high court holds Taft has qualified gubernatorial privilege

[JURIST] The Ohio Supreme Court [official website] has rejected the argument that Governor Bob Taft (R) [official website] has full executive privilege to keep records private in a 5-2 decision [PDF opinion text]. Rather, the court held on Thursday that Taft has a "qualified gubernatorial-communications privilege," allowing public access to documents when "the requester demonstrates that the requester has a particularized need to review the communications and that that need outweighs the public's interest in according confidentiality to communications made to or from the governor."

The ruling results from a suit brought by Ohio Senator Marc Dann (D) [official website] in which he used the state's Public Records Act [text] to compel the production of weekly reports from cabinet directors and executive assistants to the governor. Particularly, Dann sought information pertaining to Taft's improper investment of state money [JURIST report] in rare coins. The court gave Taft 15 days to explain how the qualified privilege covers the requested documents. As part of an ongoing scandal investigation the Office of Disciplinary Counsel [official website] concluded earlier this week that Taft violated the state's professional ethics code [JURIST report] by receiving over 50 gifts worth $6,000 during his past four years in office. Taft pleaded no contest [JURIST report] last year to charges that he failed to provide complete financial disclosure statements to the Ohio Ethics Commission. AP has more.

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