December 15, 1993
IN RE: Charlotte Jackson/Anderson County Property Valuation
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This appeal originated in a request for records submitted by Ms. Charlotte Jackson to the Scott County Property Valuation Administrator. Ms. Jackson requested: (1) a legal description of the property at 1065 Lock Road, Lawrenceburg, KY, Anderson County; (2) copies of the tax receipts/records that show who paid them; (3) the appraisal of the property including buildings/structures on it; (4) a copy of the deed in the name of Thomas White; and (5) cursory information about adjacent properties. Ms. Jackson's misdirected request was apparently forwarded to the office of the Anderson County Property Valuation Administrator, Mr. John A Perry, who, on August 16, 1993, responded to her inquiry as follows:
The card you wrote to Georgetown, Kentucky concerning property located at 1065 Lock Road, I need more information from you. Please do not FAX anything, but call our office 502 839 4061. Ask for John or Mary.
In a followup letter dated August 21, Ms. Jackson objected to Mr. Perry's failure to identify the precise nature of the needed information and his request that she contact him by telephone. In addition, she objected to his failure to respond in a timely fashion, noting that eight working days elapsed before he contacted her. She identified the deed book and page number at which records relating to the property in which she is interested could be located, and expressed a willingness to pay for copies of those records. Ms. Jackson
apparently did not receive any response to this letter. She was subsequently advised that she should pursue her remedies under the Kentucky Open Records Law by filing an appeal with the Attorney General.
In her letter of appeal to this Office, Ms. Jackson states that some 99 days have passed since her initial request, and she has not received a satisfactory response. She asks that this Office resolve the matter "in a fair manner for all concerned."
We are asked to determine if the Anderson County Property Valuation Administrator violated the Open Records Law in responding to Ms. Jackson's request. For the reasons set forth below, and assuming the facts to have been fairly and accurately presented, we conclude that his actions constitute a procedural violation of the Law.
KRS 61.880(1) sets forth procedural guidelines for agency response to an open records request. That statute provides:
Each public agency, upon any request for records made under KRS 61.870 to 61.884, shall determine within three (3) days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after the receipt of any such request whether to comply with the request and shall notify in writing the person making the request, within the three (3) day period, of its decision. An agency response denying, in whole or in part, inspection of any record shall include a statement of the specific exception authorizing the withholding of the record and a brief explanation of how the exception applies to the record withheld. The response shall be issued by the official custodian or under his authority, and it shall constitute final action.
Ms. Jackson apparently submitted her open records request on August 4, 1993. Although she received a brief response from Mr. Perry on August 16, she has not yet received a formal response, advising her whether Mr. Perry's office intends to comply with her request. This violation is mitigated by the fact that her initial request was misdirected, and the fact
that there appears to be some confusion about the precise nature of the records sought. Nevertheless, as we recently noted, the procedural requirements of the Open Records Law "are not mere formalities, but are an essential part of the prompt and orderly processing of an open records request." 93-ORD-125, p. 5. We urge Mr. Perry to review the cited provision to insure that future responses conform to the Open Records Law.
Assuming the facts presented to be accurate, we conclude that the Anderson County Property Valuation Administrator violated the Open Records Law to the extent that he failed to advise Ms. Jackson, in writing, and within three days of her request, whether his office intended to honor her request. Mr. Perry should immediately issue a written response to Ms. Jackson which conforms to KRS 61.880(1).
The Anderson County Property Valuation Administrator may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Although the Attorney General should be notified of any action filed in circuit court, he should not be named as a party in that action, or in any subsequent proceedings.
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Hon. John A. Perry
Anderson County Property Valuation Administrator
Lawrenceburg, KY 40342
Ms. Charlotte Jackson
P. O. Box 15184
Cleveland, OH 44115-0184