May 17, 1995

In re: Willard Shields/Cabinet for Human Resources


This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Cabinet for Human Resources' denial of Mr. Willard Shields's open records request to review records concerning his son and the allegation that his son had been abused.

Ms. Peggy Wallace, Commissioner, Division for Social Services, Cabinet for Human Resources, denied Mr. Shields's request. In support of her denial, Ms. Wallace cited KRS 61.878(1)(l) and KRS 620.050(4)

KRS 61.878(1)(l) provides:

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, except that no court shall authorize the inspection by any party of any materials pertaining to civil litigation beyond that which is provided by the Rules of Civil Procedure governing pretrial discovery:

(l) Public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential by enactment of the General Assembly.

The specific statute or enactment of the General Assembly relied upon by the Cabinet for Human Resources in its letter of denial was KRS 620.050(4), which provides:

All information obtained by the cabinet or its delegated representative, as a result of an investigation made pursuant to this chapter, shall not be divulged to anyone except:

(a) Persons suspected of causing dependency, neglect or abuse, provided that in such cases names of informants shall be withheld unless ordered by the court;

(b) The custodial parent or legal guardian of the child alleged to be dependent, neglected or abused;

(c) Persons within the cabinet with a legitimate interest or responsibility related to the case;

(d) Other medical, psychological, educational, or social services agencies, corrections personnel or law enforcement agencies, including the county attorney's office, that have a legitimate interest in the case;

(e) A noncustodial parent when the dependency, neglect or abuse is substantiated.

We are asked to determine if the Cabinet properly relied on KRS 61.878(1) and KRS 620.050(4) in denying Mr. Shields's request.

This office has held in prior opinions that KRS 620.050(4) requires that the Cabinet for Human Resources and the Department for Social Services withhold from all persons information acquired as a result of an investigation conducted pursuant to KRS 620.050 unless the requesting party can demonstrate he or she satisfies one of the requirements set forth in KRS 620.050(4)(a) through (f). 95-ORD-53; 92-ORD-1502; OAG 88-4; and OAG 87-82.

In her letter of denial, Ms. Wallace stated that Mr. Shields's request must be denied because he did not fall within the exceptions listed in KRS 620.050(4).

In his letter of appeal, Mr. Shields states that the records should be made available to him as he was accused and questioned about abusing his son.

The undersigned, pursuant to KRS 61.880(2)(b), contacted Ms. Becky Fritts, Records Officer, Cabinet for Human Resources, to obtain additional documentation regarding this open records request. Ms. Fritts stated that Mr. Shields's request was denied because he was not suspected of causing dependency, neglect or abuse of his son under KRS Chapter 620. In addition, Ms. Fritts indicated that the result of the investigation was that the allegation that his son was abused was unsubstantiated. Thus, Mr. Shields did not fall within the exceptions which would entitle him to review the records.

It is the decision of this office that the Cabinet properly denied Mr. Shields's request to review records concerning his son and the allegation that his son had been abused because he was not suspected of causing the abuse and, accordingly, did not meet the requirements for disclosure under KRS 620.050(4)(a).

Mr. Shields 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:

Peggy Wallace, MSSW


Department for Social Services

Cabinet for Human Resources

275 East Main Street

Frankfort, KY 40621

Willard Shields

155 Bordeaux Lane

Savannah, GA 31419