March 21, 1995

In re: Herbert L. Blevins/City of Melbourne, Kentucky


This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the City of Melbourne's responses to two requests of Mr. Herbert L. Blevins to review certain of the City's records.

By letter dated December 2, 1994, Mr. Blevins asked the City for copies of all cancelled checks (both front and back), copies of all deposit slips, copies of any and all withdraws, and copies of statements on the City's bank account noted as ADF ACCOUNT #742-47225.

Mr. Thomas A. Wietholter, City Attorney for the City of Melbourne, on behalf of the City, responded that the ADF account is an account dealing with the area development fund grant of $50,000 that the City received; that the ADF account number was not account number 74247225; and that no ADF account number 74247225 existed. Mr. Wietholter stated he found it impossible to supply Mr. Blevins with the information when the account number in Mr. Blevins's letter was wrong or the designation of the account was wrong. He further stated that if Mr. Blevins would supply the correct information, the City would be happy to supply whatever documentation it had.

In 94-ORD-12, this office explained the need of a requester to describe the public record he or she seeks to inspect as follows:

The purpose and intent of the Open Records Act is to permit the "free and open examination of public records." KRS 61.871. However, this right of access is not absolute. As a precondition to inspection, a requesting party must identify with "reasonable particularity" those documents which he or she wishes to review. OAG 89-81; OAG 91-58; OAG 92-56. Thus, if a public agency is to provide access to public documents, the requester must identify them with sufficient clarity to enable the agency to locate and make them available. If the requester cannot describe the documents he wishes to inspect with sufficient specificity, there is no requirement that the public agency conduct a search for such documents.

By the same token, if the requester's description of the record, although imprecise, is sufficient to enable the custodian to identify the document sought, it should be made available for inspection.

By letter dated January 3, 1995, to this office, Mr. Wietholter, on behalf of the City, offered, in part, the following explanation of his December 12, 1994, letter to Mr. Blevins:

A follow-up request by Mr. Blevins dated December 2, 1994, but not received at my office until December 9, 1994, and not post marked until December 7, 1994, was responded to on December 12, 1994. This request asked for records of the City of Melbourne, specific bank account titled ADF and then listed an account number. As I noted to Mr. Blevins in my letter of December 12th the account number to which he referred is not an ADF account, the ADF account had a different account number. I therefore merely requested in my letter of December 12, 1994, a clarification from Mr. Blevins as to which account he wanted the information. I further stated in my letter that once he informed the City as to exactly what account he wished to review I would make those records available to him.

This office is not persuaded that the City acted in violation of the Open Records Law when it asked Mr. Blevins to clarify his request as to the documents he sought to inspect. Accordingly, Mr. Blevins, if he has not already done so, should renew his request and set forth as precisely as possible the account number and documents he wishes to review.

The second open records response of the City to which Mr. Blevins presents an appeal to this office involved an October 6, 1994, request to inspect all records regarding easements obtained by the City through the properties owned by Roy Tarven (letter to Mr. Tarven on 5-28-93) and Johnson/Schneider (letter of 6-23-93).

On October 11, 1994, Mr. Wietholter, in response on behalf of the City, stated:

You requested copies of or access to all records regarding easements obtained by the City of Melbourne through the properties owned by Roy Tarven and Don Johnson which you refer to as a letter dated 5/28/93 and 6/23/93. In reviewing my files, I do not find any letter dated 5/28/93 to Roy Tarven or 6/23/93 to Don Johnson or Duke Schneider. Therefore, so that I can adequately review my files to better ascertain exactly what documents would be appropriate in this matter it would be helpful if you could supply me with the letters you refer to in your open records request. If you merely are requesting to view the easement granted to the city, those easement documents are on file at the Campbell County Courthouse in Alexandria.

On October 27, 1994, Mr. Blevins responded to Mr. Wietholter's October 11, 1994, letter and rephrased and clarified his request by stating:

On September 30, 1994, while I was reviewing the City of Melbourne bank account--titled and numbered KIA 742-47161--I noticed a check, written on this account, dated 8/24/93 to you, Thomas A. Wietholter, for $62.79. On the memo section of the check was noted "Legal Easement." On the paperwork backing up this check was a letter justifying the check which referred to your letter to Mr. Tarven of 5/28/93 and your letter to Johnson/Schneider dated 6/12/93.

Please consider this letter as my second Open Records Request for copies of the above mentioned letters.

On October 31, 1994, Mr. Wietholter responded:

I have received and reviewed your open records request dated October 27, 1994, that I received on October 28, 1994. In that letter you requested a copy of a letter dated 5/28/93 from my office to Roy Tarven and you also requested a letter to Johnson/Schneider dated 6/23/93. I do not consider this a second request since this is the first time you have specifically asked for copies of these letters, and is therefore being treated as a first request. I have been unable in my files to find any letter to Don Johnson or Duke Schneider dated June 23, 1993. I have, however, found a letter dated June 22, 1993, to Don Johnson dealing with the easements, both permanent and construction that were received by the city from both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and Mr. and Mrs. Schneider. Therefore, in the spirit of trying to read past your specific request and give you the information you are seeking, that letter of June 22, 1993, will be made available for you. I have also been successful in locating a copy of my letter to Roy Tarven dated May 28, 1993, and this letter will also be made available to you.

The total number of pages you will receive for this request is three (3) at a cost of $0.20 per page for a total of $0.60.

It is the decision of this office that the City did not violate the Open Records Law either by denying Mr. Blevins access to public records or subverting its intent by requesting clarification as to the documents sought to be inspected. KRS 61.880(4). After receiving Mr. Blevins's letter of October 27, 1994, the requested letters, to the extent they were in the City's files, were made available to him.

Mr. Blevins 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:

Thomas A. Wietholter

City Attorney

City of Melbourne

250 Grandview Drive, Suite 250

Ft. Mitchell, KY 41017-5610

Herbert L. Blevins

P.O. Box 126

Melbourne, KY 41059