March 3, 1995

In re: K. Wilkins/Jefferson County Clerk


This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Jefferson County Clerk's response to Mr. Wilkins's request for the owner's name of an automobile #YEL-606. Mr. Wilkins states he made an in-person request to inspect records held by the Jefferson County Clerk. He states that Ms. Brenda Soeder, Jefferson County Deputy Clerk, refused to give him the information unless he produced an I.D. and told her the reason that he wanted the information. Along with his letter to this office, Mr. Wilkins enclosed a blank form of the Jefferson County Clerk's Office titled "Request for Information." The form is apparently utilized by the clerk's office in processing requests for information from the file department of the Jefferson County Clerk's Office.

The Open Records Act contains specific guidelines for an agency's response to an open records request. KRS 61.880(1) provides in pertinent part:

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.

It is the decision of this office that, until Mr. Wilkins submits his request in writing and the agency either grants or denies his request in writing, his appeal is premature.

From the facts set forth in Mr. Wilkins's letter, it appears that his open records request was never formally presented. A completed written request was never given to the clerk. Presumably, Mr. Wilkins did not fill out the form provided by the clerk's office because he objected to the requirement that he state the reason he wanted the information and show an I.D. This office has previously held that while a public agency may require a written request, rather than an oral one, the Open Records Law does not authorize an agency to reject a request simply because the requester does not use the agency's form. KRS 61.872(2); 94-ORD-101. However, if the agency requires a written request, the requester must comply. In this case, Mr. Wilkins did not submit a request in writing.

Moreover, a person requesting public records is not required to state why he wishes to inspect the records or to produce an I.D. in order to see the records. See 94-ORD-101 and OAG 81-345, copies enclosed. If there is a statute or regulation requiring either of the above, it should be set forth in the agency's response. Absent such authority, the clerk's office is acting contrary to the intent of the Open Records Act, per KRS 61.880(4), by imposing unauthorized requirements on records access.

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







Distributed to:

Ms. Brenda Soeder

Jefferson County Deputy Clerk

Hall of Justice

600 West Jefferson

Louisville, KY 40202

Mr. K. Wilkins

975 Locust Grove Road

Shelbyville, KY 40065