NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
February 8, 1993
IN RE: Victoria L. Chappel/Montgomery County
Fire Protection District No. 1
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the actions of the Montgomery County Fire District No. 1 relative to Ms. Victoria L. Chappel's December 23, 1992, request to inspect and copy the District's 1992 audit and the minutes of the Fire Board meetings from August to December, 1992. Ms. Chappel indicates that as of January 29, 1992, she had received no response to her request.
We are asked to determine if the Montgomery County Fire District No. 1 violated the Open Records Act by failing to respond to Ms. Chappel's request. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the District's actions constitute a violation of the Act.
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. Chappel submitted her open records request on December 23, 1992. To date, the District has failed to formally respond. Some thirty-seven days have thus elapsed since the date of her request.
The Montgomery County Fire District No. 1 violated the Open Records Act to the extent that it failed to advise Ms. Chappel, in writing, within three days of her request, whether the District intended to honor her request. The District should immediately issue a written response to Ms. Chappel.
KRS 61.991(2)(a) establishes penalties for officials of public agencies who willfully conceal or destroy any record with the intent to violate the Open Records Act. Such conduct is punishable by the county attorney as a Class A misdemeanor. If evidence exists that the requested records are being willfully concealed, it should be presented to the county attorney for prosecution.
In 92-ORD-1548, we dealt with an identical issue in the context of an appeal from the Montgomery County Fire Protection District's failure to respond to an open records request. This pattern of conduct suggests, at a minimum, a willful disregard for the law. We urge the District to review the Open Records Act to insure future compliance.
The Montgomery County Fire District No. 1 may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882.
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Mr. Larry Back
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Montgomery County Fire Protection
District No. 1
805 Indian Mound Drive
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky 40353
Ms. Victoria L. Chappel
4650 Chappel Lane
Mt. Sterling, Kentucky 40353