May 7, 1996

In re: Ronnie Landrum/City of Jackson


This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the City of Jackson's denial of Mr. Ronnie Landrum's open records request to obtain certain copies of the Jackson City Police Dispatcher's Log.

Specifically, Mr. Landrum requested:

to obtain a verified copy of the Jackson City Police Dispatcher's Log Entries, or Reports, for the night of July 15th and 16th, 1991, during the hours of 9:00 P.M. thru 6:00 A.M. the following morning, as they pertain to me personally.

The above-stated material is in connection with deaths being reported and/or shots being fired in the Millers Branch area of Jackson, the hollow just above the Tee Pee Restaurant.

Mr. Hershel Branson, Jr., Attorney for the City of Jackson, denied Mr. Landrum's request, stating that the requested records could not be released without a court order.

After receipt of Mr. Landrum's letter of appeal by this office and as is authorized by KRS 61.880(2), Mr. Branson submitted a response to the issues raised in the appeal. In his response, he states that Mr. Landrum's request lacked specificity and was not made after an inspection of the records. He further states that the Open Records Law does not require that a public agency send copies of requested records to a person who had not inspected them.

For the reasons which follow, we conclude that the City's response was procedurally and substantively inconsistent with the Open Records Act.

KRS 61.880(1) sets forth procedural guidelines for agency response to an open records request. That statute provides in relevant part:

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 agency action.

In denying Mr. Landrum's request, the City cited no statutory exception which authorized nondisclosure. Denial of an open records request must be articulated in terms of the requirements of the statute. The City's response was procedurally deficient in that it failed to cite a specific statutory exception which authorizes the withholding of the requested records and a brief explanation of how the exception applies to the record withheld. Procedural requirements of the Open Records Act are not mere formalities but are an essential part of the prompt and orderly processing of an open records request. 93-ORD-125.

The 1992 General Assembly amended the Open Records Act to provide for the mailing of precisely described records which are readily available within the public agency upon written request and without inspection. KRS 61.872(3)(b). This amendment represented a radical departure from prior open records law relative to requiring inspection in advance of providing copies. Thus, if the applicant resides outside the county in which the public records are located, he cannot be required to inspect the records as a precondition to receiving copies, unless he is unable to precisely describe them or they are not readily available within the agency. KRS 61.872(3)(b). In the instant case, Mr. Landrum's description of the logs he sought was sufficiently specific for the City to identify and produce. When copies are requested, the agency may require advance payment, including postage, prior to mailing the copies. KRS 61.874(1).

Addressing the substantive issue, this office has previously held that police dispatch logs are open to public inspection without a court order. OAG 89-68; OAG 82-70. In OAG 89-20, we stated:

Police dispatch logs are typically seriatim notations, commonly of a summary character, of police dispatches and disposition codes, compiled collaterally to, and not integrally in the process of, detecting and investigating statutory violations, in contrast to, for example, an investigator's notes. Such logs have never been granted blanket exclusion from inspection by the public in this state. In order to be exempted from inspection pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(f) [now codified as KRS 61.878(1)(h)], particulars regarding given notations on a log would have to be articulated in terms of the requirements of the statute.

Thus, police dispatch logs must be made available for inspection in an unedited form, or, if the public agency elects to edit a particular entry, it must justify that withholding by reference to a specific statutory exception.

Accordingly, it is the decision of this office that the City has not established a proper basis for denial of Mr. Landrum's request for copies of the requested police dispatch logs and copies of the requested records should be made available for his inspection.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it 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 proceeding.






Distributed to:

Ronnie Landrum #111763

Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex

P. O. Box 636

West Liberty, Kentucky 41472

Hershel Branson, Jr.

1134 Main Street

Jackson, Kentucky 41339