NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
April 9, 1996
In re: Gregory L. Taylor/Jefferson County Corrections
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Jefferson County Corrections's denial of Mr. Gregory L. Taylor's open records request for copies of all reports, photos, investigations, disciplinary actions, findings, recommendations and any and all papers related to an incident in which Mr. Taylor states he was attacked and assaulted by a Jefferson County Corrections employee on June 2, 1995.
Major Grace Smith, Jefferson County Corrections, denied Mr. Taylor's request, stating:
This is not public information to be passed around by just anyone requesting it.
We are asked to determine if the denial of Mr. Taylor's request by Jefferson County Corrections was consistent with provisions of the Open Records Act. For the reasons which follow, we conclude that the denial was procedurally deficient and thus in violation of the Act.
KRS 61.880(1) sets forth procedural guidelines for agency response to an open records request. That statute provides:
Each public agency, upon any request for records made under KRS 61.870 to 61.884, shall determine within three (3) days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after the receipt of any such request whether to comply with the request and shall notify in writing the person making the request, within the three (3) day period, of its decision. 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.
Denial of an open records request must be articulated in terms of the requirements of the statute. The custodian of records thus has the burden of justifying the withholding of a record by reference to the appropriate exception, and by briefly explaining how it applies to the record withheld. 94-ORD-35.
Jefferson County Corrections's response is deficient in that it fails to cite the specific statutory exception which authorizes the withholding of the requested records and a brief explanation how the exception applies to the record withheld. Under the Open Records Act, the agency must sustain its burden of establishing that the requested record falls within an exception of the Open Records Act which authorizes nondisclosure. Our decision turns on the agency's failure to follow the statutory procedures required of an agency in responding to an open records request. KRS 61.880(1).
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.
Jefferson County Corrections was afforded two opportunities to justify its withholding of the requested record, in its response to Mr. Taylor's open records request and/or by filing a response or documentation with this office after having received notice and a copy of Mr. Taylor's letter of appeal. It failed to do so.
Accordingly, absent a statement of the specific exception upon which the agency is relying to support its withholding of the records or why the records could not be provided, we are left with no alternative but to direct the release of the requested records to Mr. Taylor. Our decision is limited to the facts presented in this appeal and turns on the public agency's failure to comply with the procedural requirements of KRS 61.880(1) and sustain its burden of proof to justify the withholding of a public record.
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
Gregory L. Taylor
P. O. Box 9300
Central City, Kentucky 42330-9300
Major Grace Smith
Jefferson County Corrections
Jefferson County Jail
600 West Jefferson Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202