NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
December 9, 1994
IN RE: James Bogard/Louisville Division of Police
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Louisville Division of Police's denial of Mr. James Bogard's request to allow a member of his company to inspect and write down the names and addresses from accident reports without being charged any fee for copying the information, which will be later used for "commercial purposes" as defined by the Open Records Law. KRS 61.870(4).
On behalf of the Louisville Division of Police, Mr. Paul V. Guagliardo, Senior Attorney, Department of Law, City of Louisville, denied Mr. Bogard's request.
Mr. Guagliardo's response, in summary, set forth the following facts in support of his denial:
1. Based upon the Open Records Law, the Division of Police, Records Unit, calculated an approximate cost to the division to create, produce and copy an accident report. Based upon those calculations, the Division has determined that accident reports requested for commercial purposes
may be obtained at a cost of $5 per copy. This cost is far less than the actual average cost of producing or creating a report. Currently, requesters are paying $5 per copy .
2. After reviewing the Open Records Law, it is our opinion that your proposal is inconsistent with the General Assembly's intention. Therefore,if your request to inspect all accident reports is to use them, or the information contained thereon, for commercial purposes (e.g., solicitation of clients), you will be charged $5 per report to view the records. There will be no additional charge to obtain a photocopy of any report you have inspected. KRS 61.870(4)(a); KRS 61.874(4).
Because of legislation passed by the 1994 General Assembly, an additional issue is raised which must be addressed by this decision. That issue is whether it was proper for the Louisville Police Division to make available the accident reports for public inspection in light of legislation passed by the 1994 Kentucky General Assembly.
In 1994, the General Assembly amended KRS 189.635(5) so that it now provides:
All accident reports filed with the Department of State Police in compliance with subsection (4) above shall remain confidential except that the department may disclose the identity of a person involved in an accident when his identity is not otherwise known or when he denies his presence at an accident. All other accident reports required by this section, and the information contained in the reports, shall be confidential and exempt from public disclosure except when produced pursuant to a properly executed subpoena or court order, or except pursuant to subsection (6) of this section. These reports shall be made available only to the parties to the accident, the parents or guardians of a minor who is party to the accident, and the
insurers of any party who is the subject of the report, or to the attorneys of the parties.
(Emphasized language added by 1994 Act.)
Under KRS 189.635(5), the accident reports are confidential and exempt from public disclosure except under limited circumstances set out therein. Mr. Bogard does not claim he falls under these limited circumstances.
KRS 61.878(1)(l) provides in pertinent part:
(1) The following public records are excluded from the application of KRS 61.870 to 61.884 and shall be subject to inspection only upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction . . .
(l) Public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential by enactment of the General Assembly.
This office has previously held that the custodian of the records of a public agency may allow inspection of all records in his custody regardless of whether the records may be exempt by their nature under the provisions of KRS 61.878 unless the records come under the exemptions provided for by KRS 61.878(k) and (l). Those exemptions are mandatory and exclude from public inspection public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited by federal law or regulation or by enactment of the General Assembly. OAG 79-275; OAG 91-132.
Accordingly, the Louisville Division of Police's action in making the accident reports available for public inspection was improper as such records are confidential and the disclosure of the records or information contained therein is clearly prohibited by KRS 61.878(1)(l) and KRS 189.635(5).
The other issue raised on this appeal is whether the Division of Police violated the Open Records Act by not allowing Mr. Bogard to inspect and copy information in the accident reports, to be used for commercial purposes, without paying a fee.
The 1994 General Assembly amended the Open Records Act by allowing public agencies to prescribe a fee for making copies of nonexempt public records which are requested for commercial purposes. KRS 61.874(4). The fee may be based on one or both of the following as set forth in KRS 61.874(4)(c):
1. Cost to the public agency of media, mechanical processing, and staff required to produce a copy of the public record or records;
2. Cost to the public agency of the creation, purchase, or other acquisition of public records.
Thus, it is clear the General Assembly intended that public agencies assess a reasonable fee for copying public records to be used for commercial purposes.
However, KRS 61.874(1) specifically provides that "upon inspection, the applicant shall have the right to make abstracts and memoranda thereof." The Open Records Act does not address the circumstance of whether a fee may be charged for inspection and the writing down of information contained in the public record to be used for a commercial purpose. Unless the public agency can demonstrate some actual cost to the agency associated with allowing an individual to exercise his right to inspect and make an abstract of a public record, for commercial purposes, no fee can be charged. Thus, under the facts presented, the Division of Police could not charge a fee.
Mr. Bogard and the Louisville Division of Police may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882.
James M. Ringo
Assistant Attorney General
Bogard & Associates
804 East Caldwell
Louisville, KY 40204
Paul V. Guagliardo
City of Louisville, Department of Law
Room 200, City Hall
Louisville, KY 40202-2771