Not Sure I Get This

I wonder if any law has been amended more than the Ohio Public Records Act. It’s a pretty simple statute that imposes a pretty basic obligation on state agencies. If a record relates to the public business, the public has a right to inspect it. And the public agency can’t destroy it just because it feels like it. But over the years, the Ohio legislature has created more exceptions to the law than there are letters in the alphabet. I’m not making that up. They started assigning letters to the exceptions and they are currently at (aa). It seems that often when a court decision comes down that some legislator doesn’t like, he or she proposes an amendment to address that particular ruling. Seems like an odd way of doing business, but admittedly I’m not a politician. So the latest proposed amendment, courtesy of State Senator Bill Seitz, would limit the damages that a party could recover from a public agency that destroys a record. Right now, the public agency is liable for $1000 for every record that it destroys, and it has to pay the attorney fees for the party that brings the suit. There have been some cases where the damages have piled up. Depending on the number of records, the number can get pretty high. A court in Bucyrus last year found that town liable for over $1 million dollars. The amendment would cap the damages in a case like that at $10,000 no matter how many records were destroyed. And the bill would cap the attorney fees at $5000. And that’s the part I don’t get. I can see a damage cap, I suppose, but why should the attorney fees charge to a party who exposes a public agency’s wrongdoing be subject to an arbitrary cap? The existing statute already allows the court to adjust the fee award if appropriate. But a hard cap means that a lot of cases that should be brought won’t be. Bad bill, Bill.