NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
July 19, 1993
IN RE: Jimmie C. Lynch/Cabinet for Human Resources -
Department for Social Services
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the actions of the Cabinet for Human Resources, Department for Social Services, in responding to Mr. Jimmie C. Lynch's request to inspect records which are in the Cabinet's custody and which relate to his uncle who became a ward of the state in 1918, and was subsequently adopted.
On behalf of the Department for Social Services, Commissioner Peggy Wallace denied Mr. Lynch's request on June 25, 1993. Relying on KRS 61.878(1)(k) and KRS 199.570, Commissioner Wallace maintained that these provisions operate in tandem to prohibit disclosure of the records requested. KRS 61.878(1)(k) excludes from the application of the Open Records Act:
Public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential by enactment of the General Assembly.
This exception to the Open Records Act incorporates KRS 199.570, relating to the confidentiality of adoption records. KRS 199.570(1) provides in part:
No person having charge of any adoption records shall disclose the names of any parties appearing in such records or furnish any copy of any such records, except upon
order of the court which entered the judgment of adoption.
It is Commissioner Wallace's position that the Department is foreclosed from honoring Mr. Lynch's request.
We are asked to determine if the Department for Social Services violated the Open Records Act when it denied Mr. Lynch's request. We conclude that the Department properly denied his request under the cited exceptions to the Act.
This Office has previously held that adoption records and records of adoption proceedings are confidential. OAG 87-71. During adoption proceedings certain persons may inspect the records without court order. KRS 199.570(1). Among these persons are the parties to the proceedings and their attorneys. However, upon entry of the final order in the case the records are sealed, and no person may inspect them without a written order of the court. The statute is clear on its face.
KRS 199.570 prohibits persons having charge of adoption records from divulging information contained in those records. Violation of this provision is punishable by a fine of $500 to $2,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both. KRS 199.990(2). In OAG 87-71, we recognized that this prohibition extends to the Department for Social Services and its representatives. It is the opinion of this Office that the Department is absolutely foreclosed from releasing adoption records to an adoptive parent, a relative, or any other person, in the absence of a court order. We therefore conclude that the Department properly denied Mr. Lynch's request under KRS 61.878(1)(k) and KRS 199.570.
Mr. Lynch 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
Commissioner Peggy Wallace
Cabinet for Human Resources
Department for Social Services
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621
Mr. Jimmie C. Lynch
2229 Alderney Ct.
Middlesboro, FL 32068