The Whitley County Detention Center was found to be in violation of the Kentucky Open Records Act when it failed to respond in writing to a request for records, denied portions of the request without explanation, and delayed providing records beyond the statutory response period without explaining the reason for delay, according to a Kentucky Attorney General Open Records Decision on May 17.
The original request was made by Aaron Kidd on Feb. 22. Kidd requested records relating to, “the arrest and detention of a certain individual, including video of a purported altercation between that individual and Center employees, incident reports related to the altercation, and ‘use of force’ records,” stated the opinion.
Marc Manley, Assistant Attorney General, wrote the opinion. In the decision, Manley explained that the agency responding to a request has three business days to decide if it will comply with the request and notify the requester of its decision.
Regardless of whether an agency complies with providing the records, it must provide a response to the request notifying the requester of its decision. If an agency chooses to deny the inspection of records, either in whole or in part, the agency must include a statement of the specific exception in the Kentucky Revised Statutes that allows the withholding of that record and an explanation for how the exception applies to the specific record the agency wishes to withhold.
In the case of the Whitley County Detention Center, Manley explains that instead of providing “any formal written response,” the records were provided “haphazardly.” While some records were provided to Kidd, two memoranda were also included. Together the two memoranda eluded to records which may have been responsive to the request, but were not released to Kidd, according to the decision.
“A public agency cannot ignore portions of a request,” Manley stated in the opinion. “If the records exist and an exemption applies to deny inspection, the public agency must cite the exemption and explain how it applies.”
“If the records do not exist, then instead of ignoring those portions of the request, the public agency must affirmatively state that such records do not exist,” Manley stated in the opinion.
Ultimately, Manley said the detention center was in violation of the Open Records Act because it did not provide a written response that explained that portions of the request had been denied and the reasons why those portions were denied.
According the Kentucky Revised Statutes, if either party disagrees with the Attorney General’s decision, they can appeal it by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court.
Parties have 30 days from the date the Attorney General rendered his decision to appeal to the court. If an appeal is not filed within 30 days, the Attorney General’s decision has the force and effect of law.