COLUMBUS -- The Ohio Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force JobsOhio to fulfill a public records request.
A one-page judgment entry signed by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and filed Tuesday noted that the private nonprofit was exempt from public records laws.
The suit was brought by a Columbus attorney against JobsOhio and John Minor, the group's president and chief executive officer after the nonprofit failed to produce requested documents in a reasonable period of time, according to documents.
JobsOhio was created by lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich to handle behind-the-scenes negotiations with companies seeking incentives for expansions.
As a private entity, JobsOhio is not subject to open meetings and records laws and other requirements that generally affect state agencies. Instead, it is required to conduct a handful of public meetings and annually disclose information about incentives awarded through its efforts.
Supporters believe the nonprofit is better positioned to work with businesses considering expansions or relocations in Ohio, with executives feeling more comfortable discussing such matters behind closed doors.
But opponents say the setup is unconstitutional, funneling public resources to a private organization that is exempted from portions of the state's open meetings and records laws. They also say the Ohio Constitution prohibits the state from establishing such private enterprises.
The Ohio Supreme Court is still considering whether a liberal advocacy group has standing to challenge the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Oral arguments in the case took place last month; there is no timeframe for justices to issue their decision.
Tuesday's dismissal was on a separate case, with attorney Victoria Ullmann arguing that JobsOhio "is the functional equivalent of a government agency or division of an agency and therefore is subject" to public records requirements.
"JobsOhio is unconstitutional," Ullmann wrote.
Legal counsel for JobsOhio countered that the Ullmann's pubic records request "was improper and contrary to statute. The legislation enabling the creation of JobsOhio... could not be clearer in pronouncing that JobsOhio is not a 'public office' (and, therefore, not properly subject to a public records request) and that documents requested from JobsOhio are not 'public records.'"
Justices sided with the nonprofit in dismissing the legal challenge, with six members of the court signing onto the decision and one (Justice Terrence O'Donnell) not participating.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.