A recent decision by the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office questioned the efficiency of record keeping at the Whitley County E-911 dispatch center, but local officials say the problems predate them and have been addressed.
Attorney General Jack Conway released a decision March 9 regarding an appeal by Corbin resident Dolly Bunch under the Kentucky Open Records Act. Bunch had requested a copy of a 911 call made to the dispatch center on June 21, 2005 concerning her son, James S. Bunch. She made the request to Whitley County E-911 Supervisor Angie Matney on Nov. 12, 2009 but was told by Matney in a Nov. 23 reply that recordings of the call were missing.
Though the Whitley County E-911 Center was not found in violation of the Open Records Act – since public agencies can’t be compelled to produce records they don’t possess – the decision did "raise some concerns about the Whitley County E-911 Center’s records management practices."
"The sum and substance of Ms. Matney’s response to this appeal is that three disks of 911 recordings, covering the periods from May 23 to August 4, 2005, and September 26 to December 6, 2005, are missing from the agency’s inventory. Since the call concerning James S. Bunch was on one of those disks, it could not be retrieved," the decision reads.
"We find no violation of the Open Records Act itself. A public agency cannot afford a requester access to a record that it does not have or that does not exist. The agency discharges its duty under the Open Records Act by affirmatively so stating. The fact that discs are missing from the inventory, however, gives cause for concern about the Whitley County E-911 Center’s records management practices."
Conway referred the matter to the Department for Libraries and Archives for "additional inquiry as that agency deems warranted."
Matney said she was dismayed that she could not provide Bunch with the recording, but that record keeping issues at the 911 center have been improved since she took over in 2006. The call was made to the center while former Supervisor Lisa Baird was in charge.
"She [Bunch] is a very sweet lady. In fact, when she filed the appeal, she called and asked me if I would send her the paperwork," Matney said. "I think she is just looking for answers."
The call in question was regarding a possible overdose by James Bunch at a residence off of Bee Creek Road. According to the E-911 Centers Computer Assisted Dispatch (CAD) records, the coroner was called a short time later and pronounced Bunch dead.
Chuck Davis, Detective for the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department, said he has kept the case open since 2005 because Dolly Bunch believes her son was murdered.
"His mom feels it is a homicide not an overdose. I’ve left it open and I try to work on it when I can. I still come up with the same thing," Davis said.
Davis said Bunch was partying at the residence with some friends when he accidentally overdosed. There is no sign that he was killed by someone else.
Dolly Bunch could not be reached for comment.
Matney said despite what the Attorney General’s ruling says; only two DVDs are missing from the dispatch center. She said all calls are recorded on double-sided DVDs that hold a month to a month and a half worth of calls and radio traffic. The first missing disc covers from 2:38 p.m. May 23, 2005 until 9:32 p.m. Aug. 4, 2005. The second disc included recordings from the time period of 12:25 p.m. Sept. 26, 2005 through 10:49 p.m. Dec. 6, 2005. The dispatch center has recordings all the way back to 2001.
"Anything before those dates and times and after I have the disc, but I don’t have those," Matney said. "I don’t know what happened to them. I just can’t elaborate. I don’t know what happened."
Matney said when she first became E-911 Supervisor she did a thorough inventory of the recordings in order to better account for what was available and to improve future archiving.
The E-911 Center has more modern equipment it now uses to records calls and radio traffic. She said the old system was prone to malfunctions, particularly after power surges or outages. At times it would be down for extended periods and would not record.
"When I first became supervisor and looked into it and did an inventory, we started asking questions," Matney said. "The old system would just fail. The drivers would fail on it. That’s one reason why we upgraded."
Matney said she’s already tried to contact the Department of Libraries and Archives to obtain some advice on a record keeping policy for the E-911 Center.