June 27, 1994
IN RE: Brian L. Cullinan/City of Louisville
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This appeal originated in a request for public records submitted by Mr. Brian L. Cullinan to the City of Louisville on February 17, 1994. Mr. Cullinan asked to review the original monthly credit card statements "for Jerry Abramson's City of Louisville credit cards and any Mayor's office credit cards, from January, 1987 through January, 1994." After a delay of some four weeks, the City of Louisville, through Assistant Director of Law Thomas Lukins, released copies of the credit card statements, with the exception of twelve missing statements. Mr. Lukins did not permit Mr. Cullinan to inspect the original statements, as requested, but furnished him with copies of the statements after redacting the credit card numbers. He explained that the numbers were redacted to prevent unauthorized use of the credit card, but failed to cite an exception to the Open Records Law which authorized this action. Mr. Cullinan objects to the City's failure to identify the exception which authorized the withholding of the credit card numbers, and its failure to respond to his subsequent request for the twelve missing credit card statements.
We are asked to determine if the City of Louisville properly responded to Mr. Cullinan's February 17 request. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the City's response, although procedurally deficient, was otherwise consistent with the Open Records Act.
We refer the parties to 93-ORD-134, 94-ORD-29, and 94-ORD-58 for a discussion of the procedural requirements of the Open Records Act. To the extent that the City's response deviated from the principles enunciated therein, we find that its actions constituted a procedural violation of the Act.
Turning to the substantive issues raised in this appeal, we find that the City properly acknowledged its duty to release the monthly credit card statements reflecting charges made by Mayor Abramson on his City credit card per OAG 89-27. At page two of OAG 89-27, this Office recognized that although a public agency is obligated to permit inspection of credit card statements, it may mask the account number "to prevent improper use of the card number." The City of Louisville's position thus mirrors our position in OAG 89-27.
In OAG 89-27 this Office did not identify the statutory authority upon which we relied in holding that a credit card number could be redacted. Because the charges are incurred by a public official and involve the expenditure of public funds, that portion of the record does not fit easily within any of the exceptions. Compare, OAG 92-110 (holding that a university properly withheld credit card statements including card numbers pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(a), the privacy exception, on a showing that although they bore the university logo, the credit cards were privately owned and the financial responsibility of the individuals whose names appeared on them). Kentucky's Open Records Act does not contain an exception for records the disclosure of which would constitute a threat to the security or fiscal integrity of the public agency. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Act was not intended to facilitate misuse of public funds. While Mr. Cullinan's motives in securing access to the card number are undoubtedly pure, our decision must be applied not only to him but to the public at large. Moreover, the City has effectually promoted the public interest in monitoring the expenditure of public funds by the Mayor through the already disclosed portions of the credit card statements, and no purpose would be served by disclosure of the credit card number. It is therefore our view that because the credit card is in the custody of the Mayor, and any misuse could be imputed to him, the card number is exempt from public inspection pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(a), authorizing the withholding of information of a personal nature the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Pursuant to KRS 61.878(4) and KRS 61.880(1), the City is obligated to cite the exception upon which it relies in redacting these records, and to briefly explain how the exception applies to the portion of the records withheld. 94-ORD-58. Its failure to do so constitutes a procedural violation of the Act. Additionally, the City's failure to respond to Mr. Cullinan's April 11 request for the missing
credit card statements in writing, and within three business days was procedurally improper. The City should take immediate steps to remedy these violations.
Mr. Cullinan and the City of Louisville may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, but should not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceedings.
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Hon. Thomas Lukins
Assistant Director of Law
City of Louisville
Department of Law
Room 200, City Hall
Louisville, KY 40202-2771
Hon. Brian Cullinan
Attorney at Law
One Corporate Plaza, 22nd Floor
220 W. Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202