State ex rel. Lucas County Bd. of Comm'rs v. Ohio EPA
Citation: 30 ELR 20400
No. No. 98-2549, 724 N.E.2d 411/(Ohio, 03/08/2000)
The court denies a county board of commissioners' petition to compel the Ohio environmental agency to disclose records designated as trade secrets that the agency received from a hazardous waste facility. The court first holds that oral argument is not warranted here because the parties' briefs are sufficient to resolve the issues presented and oral argument would merely prolong a decision in a case that has languished due to the parties' failed attempts at settling the case through mediation. The court next holds that Ohio law does not prevent the board from challenging the environmental agency director's trade secret determinations in this action. The applicable statute does not preclude disclosure of the requested record based simply on the director's decision. It only requires that the director promulgate procedural rules regarding the confidentiality of trade secrets. Moreover, the agency and its director lack authority to bestow confidential trade secret status on records that do not constitute trade secrets. In addition, a mandamus proceeding constitutes a judicial proceeding at which agency records may be held subject to disclosure as public records, and contrary to the agency's view, any person challenging a trade secrets determination of the agency is not relegated to an administrative appeal as the sole remedy.
Nevertheless, the court next holds that the board is not entitled to compel the disclosure of the records. The information sought by the board is entitled to exemption from disclosure as trade secrets. The information contains more than just a simple list of customer names, it is not available in as comprehensive a manner through other public sources, and it gives the facility a business advantage over its competitors.
The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (6 pp., ELR Order No. L-191).
Counsel for Respondent
Bryan F. Zima, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State Office Tower
30 E. Broad St., Columbus OH 43266
Counsel for Relator
Julia R. Bates, Lucas County Prosecuting Attorney
Lucas County Attorney's Office
100 S. St. Clair St., Toledo OH 43601