NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
September 24, 1996
In re: Lisa Simpson/Cabinet for Families and Children
Open Records Decision
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Cabinet for Families and Children's denial of Ms. Lisa Simpson's open records request to inspect an investigative report prepared by Mr. Barry Denton in response to her letter to the Department for Social Services regarding child maltreatment cases in the Green River District.
On behalf of the Cabinet for Families and Children, Ms. Delores Delahanty, Management Team, Department for Social Services, citing KRS 61.878(1)(l) in conjunction with KRS 620.050(4), denied Ms. Simpson's request. She advised Ms. Simpson that the latter statute prohibits the release of information obtained by the Department in the course of an investigation relating to child protective cases, such as the investigative report she was seeking to inspect, except under certain enumerated circumstances, or to certain identified persons. Ms. Delahanty, in her response, stated that because Mr. Denton's report contains information gained as a result of investigations conducted pursuant to KRS Chapter 620, and because Ms. Simpson did not fit into any of the exceptions to confidentiality, that information may not be disclosed to her.
We are asked to determine if the Cabinet properly relied upon KRS 61.878(1)(l) and KRS 620.050(4) in denying Ms. Simpson's request. We have dealt with the issue raised in this appeal in a number of prior decisions. For example, in OAG 92-53, we held that KRS 620.050(4) clearly required that the Cabinet for Human Resources (now Cabinet for Families and Children) 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 that he or she satisfies one of the requirements set forth in KRS 620.050(4)(a) through (f). See also, OAG 92-54; 92-ORD-1502; 94-ORD-134. We believe that this line of decision is dispositive of the present appeal.
KRS 61.878(1)(l) exempts from mandatory disclosure:
Public records or information the disclosure of which is prohibited or restricted or otherwise made confidential by enactment of the general assembly.
KRS 620.050(4) insures the confidentiality of information gathered by the Cabinet in cases of reported dependency, neglect, and abuse, and establishes certain circumstances under which, and classes of persons to whom, such information may be made available. It provides:
(4) All information obtained by the cabinet or its delegated representative, as a result of an investigation made pursuant to this section, 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 service 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; or
(f) Those persons so authorized by court order.
This statute clearly requires that the Cabinet for Families and Children 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 that he or she satisfies one of the requirements set forth in KRS 620.050(4)(a) through (f).
Even though Ms. Simpson was the reporting source for the investigation, the Cabinet and Department determined that she did not fit any of the exceptions to confidentiality provided for in KRS 620.050(4). Ms. Elaine Campbell, Records Section Supervisor, Department for Social Services, confirms this in a letter to this office dated September 9, 1996.
This office has consistently held that both the Cabinet and the Department are strictly prohibited from releasing information gathered in an investigation, except as otherwise provided in that statute. OAG 87-82; OAG 88-4; OAG 91-93. Accordingly, since Ms. Simpson did not demonstrate that she fell within any of the statutorily recognized classifications, it is our opinion that the Cabinet properly denied Ms. Simpson's request.
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.
A. B. Chandler III
James M. Ringo
Assistant Attorney General
Lisa Simpson, R.N.
2439 Bittel Road
Owensboro KY 42301
Cabinet for Families and Children
275 East Main Street
Frankfort KY 40601