NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
February 22, 1996
In re: WBKO-TV/Cabinet for Human Resources
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Cabinet for Human Resources' denial of WBKO-TV reporter Julie Pursley's undated request to inspect public records. Specifically, Ms. Pursley requested access to records relating to the possible investigation into the Sonshine Christian School in Horse Cave. She indicated that she had received a tip that Social Service workers out of Munfordville were investigating possible physical abuse of children at the . . . Facility. Ms. Pursley's request was directed to Bill Griffin, Executive Director of the Office of Communications, who forwarded it to the Department for Social Services.
On October 9, 1995, Peggy Wallace, Commissioner for the Department for Social Services, denied Ms. Pursley's request. Relying on KRS 61.878(1)(l), which incorporates the confidentiality provision found at KRS 620.050(4) into the Open Records Act, Commissioner Wallace explained that the latter statute prohibits the release of information obtained by the department in the course of an investigation into an incident of alleged child abuse or neglect, except under certain enumerated circumstances, or to certain identified persons. Because Ms. Pursley did not fall within any of these exceptions to the general rule of nondisclosure, she could not be permitted to inspect the requested records.
We are asked to determine if the Cabinet properly relied on KRS 61.878(1)(l) and KRS 620.050(4) in denying Ms. Pursley'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 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 decisions 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 for Human Resources 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 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 that he or she satisfies one of the requirements set forth in KRS 620.050(4)(a) through (f). Ms. Pursley has not demonstrated that she falls under any of the statutorily recognized classifications or that her particular situation warrants the release of the requested material.
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, it is our opinion that the Cabinet properly denied Ms. Pursley'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
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Peggy Wallace, Commissioner
Department for Social Services
Cabinet for Human Resources
275 East Main Street
Frankfort KY 40601
Joseph T. Corcoran
P. O. Box 13000
Bowling Green KY 42102