August 26, 1993






IN RE: Connie B. Branham/Clinton County Public School System






This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the actions of the Clinton County Public School System, through its Superintendent, Dr. B. C. DeSpain, in responding to Ms. Connie B. Branham's July 13, 1993, request to inspect certain records in its custody. Those records are identified as:


1. All phone bills for the Clinton County Schools . . . for the months of June 1992 thru June 1993.


2. A list of all classified employees by job classification with salary indicated.


Ms. Branham states that on July 16, Superintendent DeSpain responded to her letter requesting clarification of her request. Specifically, he asked that she indicate for which dates she wished to review job classifications. The Superintendent advised her that after she clarified her request, he would make the information available.


On July 19, Ms. Branham attempted to clarify her request, asking for "all classified employees by job classification with salary indicated for the school years 92-93 and 93-94." She was subsequently advised that the records were available. However, when she arrived at the Superintendent's office on July 21, she was informed that although she could review a list of job classifications and salaries, she would not be permitted to review the employees' names. Ms. Branham

was told that the Superintendent takes the position that release of this information would violate the employees' rights. In response, Ms. Branham requested that the Superin-

tendent issue a written denial to her request. To date, she has not received a written denial from Superintendent DeSpain. Ms. Branham has, however, been furnished with copies of some of the phone bills she requested.


On August 4, 1993, Superintendent DeSpain contacted this Office on a related open records issue. We advised him that Ms. Branham had submitted an appeal on the issue of the propriety of the nonrelease of employees' names. Superinten-

dent DeSpain agreed to immediately release a list of classified employees for the 1992-93 school year, including their names, job classifications, and salaries. He stated that the School System did not have an accurate list of classified employees for the 1993-94 school year, including their names, job classifications, and salaries, but that a list could be generated within a week. He agreed to make the list available no later than August 13.


On August 17, Ms. Branham went to the Superintendent's office, and requested a copy of the list of classified employees for the 1993-94 school year. Although she had previously been given the 1992-93 list, she was advised that the 1993-94 list had not been completed and was therefore not available. With respect to the omitted phone bills, she was advised that they were not in the Superintendent's custody. No other explanation was provided for the School System's failure to produce the records.


We are asked to determine if the Clinton County Public School System properly responded to Ms. Branham's request for the names of classified employees along with their job classifications and salaries, as well as her request for certain phone bills. For the reasons set forth below, and assuming the facts to have been fairly and accurately presented by Ms. Branham, we conclude that the School System's actions constitute both a procedural and substantive violation of the Open Records 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.


Superintendent DeSpain's response to Ms. Branham's July 13 request was technically deficient for a number of reasons. He did not notify her in writing, and within three business days, that the School System intended to deny a portion of her request. Nor did he cite an exception authorizing nondisclosure of the names of classified employees along with their job classifications and salaries, or briefly explain how the exception applies to these records. We again urge Superintendent DeSpain to review the cited provision to insure that future responses conform to the Open Records Act.


Turning to the substantive issues raised in this appeal, we find that the Clinton County Public School System improperly denied Ms. Branham's request for the names of classified employees along with their job classifications and salaries. This Office has consistently recognized that disclosure of the name, position, work station, and salary of public employees does not constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy in contravention of KRS 61.878(1)(a). OAG 76-717; OAG 87-37; OAG 87-84; OAG 91-48. At page 1 of OAG 76-717, we observed that "[t]hese are matters in which the public has an interest since [public] employees are carrying on the public's business at public expense." See also, OAG 90-30, at p. 3 (holding that "the public is entitled to inspect records documenting exact amounts paid from public moneys, to include amounts paid for items or for salaries, etc. Specific sums paid in salary from public moneys to a teacher in the public schools falls within such purview, and are, in our view, subject to inspection by the public . . . .").


Similarly, telephone records of a public agency can not be properly withheld. In OAG 86-21, at page 3, this Office reasoned:


Since public officials or employees are calling on telephones of a public agency at the public's expense it is presumed, or at least it is hoped, that some kind of public service is being rendered.


This view is consistent with the rule that the public's business must be conducted in public. If the Superintendent is not the custodian of the phone bills, it is incumbent on him to so notify Ms. Branham, and furnish the name and location of the custodian, if such facts are known to him. Superintendent DeSpain must therefore immediately release the remaining phone bills, or advise Ms. Branham, in writing, where those records can be obtained.


We remind Superintendent DeSpain that KRS 61.991(2)(a) establishes a penalty for public officials who willfully conceal or destroy public records with the intent to violate the provisions of the Open Records Act. The Attorney General is not, however, authorized to render a decision on this question in an open records appeal.


We also remind him that in rendering a decision under the Open Records Law, the Attorney General is not concerned with "heroes and villains." Our review is limited to the legal and factual issues with which we are presented. Our decisions reflect a reasoned and objective resolution of these issues. It is our statutory duty to enforce the rights and obligations of the parties in an open records dispute, not to malign or praise those parties.


The Clinton County Public School System should promptly arrange for Ms. Branham to inspect and copy documents containing the names of classified employees, along with their job classifications and salaries for the 1993-94 school year, and the missing phone records, if available.


The School System may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882.












Distributed to:


Superintendent B. C. DeSpain

Clinton County Public School System

P.O. Box 416

Albany, KY 42602


Ms. Connie Branham

1013 N. Cross Street

Albany, KY 42602