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Be a watchdog


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How to use the Kentucky Open Records Act to hold the powerful accountable.

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Be a watchdog

  1. 1. Be A Watchdog How to use the Kentucky Open Records Act to hold the powerful accountable
  2. 2. What is a public agency? • State and local government officers, departments and legislative bodies; • County and city governing bodies, school district boards, special district boards and municipal corporations; • State or local government agencies created by statute or other legislative acts;
  3. 3. What is a public agency? • Bodies that receive at least 25% of their funds from state or local authority (excluding funds from a state or local contract that is competitively bid); • An entity where the majority of its governing body is appointed by a public agency; • Boards, commissions, committees, etc., that are established, created and controlled by public agencies; • Interagency bodies of two or more public agencies.
  4. 4. What is a public record? • All books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tape s, discs, diskettes, recordings, software, or other documentation regardless of physical form or characteristics, which are prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency. • This includes emails, databases and other records electronically generated or stored.
  5. 5. You have the upper hand! • The General Assembly finds and declares that the basic policy of KRS 61.870 to 61.884 is that free and open examination of public records is in the public interest and the exceptions provided for by KRS 61.878 or otherwise provided by law shall be strictly construed, even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment to public officials or others.
  6. 6. Your right to inspect • All public records shall be open for inspection by any person, except as otherwise provided by KRS 61.870 to 61.884, and suitable facilities shall be made available by each public agency for the exercise of this right. • You must be permitted to conduct onsite inspection of the records during the agency’s regular office hours, and the agency cannot restrict your hours of access.
  7. 7. What do you have to do? • The official custodian may require written application, signed by the applicant and with his name printed legibly on the application, describing the records to be inspected. The application shall be hand delivered, mailed, or sent via facsimile to the public agency. • This law was written before email. Not all agencies accept emailed requests.
  8. 8. Can I take notes? • Upon inspection, the applicant shall have the right to make abstracts of the public records and memoranda thereof, and to obtain copies of all public records not exempted by the terms of KRS 61.878. When copies are requested, the custodian may require a written request and advance payment of the prescribed fee, including postage where appropriate.
  9. 9. Can I get records in the mail? • The public agency shall mail copies of the public records to a person whose residence or principal place of business is outside the county in which the public records are located after he precisely describes the public records which are readily available within the public agency. If the person requesting the public records requests that copies of the records be mailed, the official custodian shall mail the copies upon receipt of all fees and the cost of mailing.
  10. 10. How long do they have? • 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.
  11. 11. Can I get them electronically? • Nonexempt public records used for noncommercial purposes shall be available for copying in either standard electronic or standard hard copy format, as designated by the party requesting the records, where the agency currently maintains the records in electronic format. Agencies are not required to convert hard copy format records to electronic formats.
  12. 12. What do I have to pay? • The public agency may prescribe a reasonable fee for making copies which shall not exceed the actual cost of reproduction, including the costs of the media, but not including the cost of staff required. If a public agency is asked to tailor the format, it may at its discretion provide the requested format and recover staff costs as well as any actual costs incurred. • You cannot be charged for inspecting records.
  13. 13. What if they’re busy? • If the application places an unreasonable burden in producing public records or if the custodian has reason to believe that repeated requests are intended to disrupt 20 other essential functions of the public agency, the official custodian may refuse to permit inspection of the public records or mail copies thereof. However, refusal under this section shall be sustained by clear and convincing evidence.
  14. 14. What records are exempt? • (a) Records containing information of a personal nature is disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; • (b) Records confidentially disclosed to an agency and compiled and maintained for scientific research;
  15. 15. What records are exempt? • (c) Records confidentially disclosed to an agency or required by an agency to be disclosed to it, generally recognized as confidential or proprietary, which if openly disclosed would permit an unfair commercial advantage to competitors of the entity that disclosed the records;
  16. 16. What records are exempt? • (d) Public records pertaining to a prospective location of a business or industry which has not previously disclosed that it is interested in locating, relocating or expanding in Kentucky; • (e) Records developed by an agency in conjunction with the regulation or supervision of financial institutions which reveal the agency’s internal examining or audit criteria;
  17. 17. What records are exempt? • (f) Real estate appraisals, engineering or feasibility estimates and evaluations made by or for a public agency in the course of acquiring property, until all of the property has been acquired; • (g) Test questions, scoring keys, and other examination data used to administer a licensing examination, examination for employment, or academic examination before the exam is given or if it is to be given again;
  18. 18. What records are exempt? • (h) Records of law enforcement agencies or agencies involved in administrative adjudication if disclosure of the records would harm the agency by premature release. Such records may be inspected after enforcement action is completed or a decision is made to take no action, unless they were compiled and maintained by a county or commonwealth’s attorney;
  19. 19. What records are exempt? • (i) and (j) Preliminary documents, including drafts, notes, correspondence with private individuals, recommendations, and memoranda in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated; • (k) and (l) Public records that are prohibited from disclosure by state or federal law;
  20. 20. What records are exempt? • (m) Records the disclosure of which would have a reasonable likelihood of threatening the public safety by exposing a vulnerability in preventing, protecting against, mitigating, or responding to a terrorist act. This is limited to eight precisely described categories of records;
  21. 21. What records are exempt? • (n) Records having historic, literary, artistic or commemorative value that are accepted by the archivist of a public university, museum or government depository from a donor other than a public agency if nondisclosure is requested in writing by the donor. • Records of the courts and the General Assembly are not subject to the Open Records Act.
  22. 22. What if a record contains exempt info? • Public agencies cannot withhold a public record because it contains both protected and unprotected information. Agencies must mask the protected information and release the unprotected information to you
  23. 23. What do they have to tell me? • 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.
  24. 24. What if I don’t like their decision? • Try writing a letter that explains why the agency is wrong and asks the agency to reconsider its decision. • If that doesn’t work, appeal to the Attorney General or file a lawsuit in Circuit Court.
  25. 25. How do I appeal? • If a complaining party wishes the Attorney General to review a public agency’s denial of a request to inspect a public record, the complaining party shall forward to the Attorney General a copy of the written request and a copy of the written response denying inspection. If the public agency refuses to provide a written response, a complaining party shall provide a copy of the written request.
  26. 26. How long does an appeal take? • The Attorney General shall review the request and denial and issue within twenty (20) days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, a written decision stating whether the agency violated provisions of KRS 61.870 to 61.884.
  27. 27. Where do I get more info? • The law: • KPA Reporter’s Pocket Guide: • KPA hotline: (502) 540-2300
  28. 28. Can I get help writing a request? • Student Press Law Center letter generator asp • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press letter generator
  29. 29. Are those records online? • Kentucky Open Door • Kentucky Registry of Election Finance • Kentucky court dockets • Kentucky sex offender registry
  30. 30. Are those records online? • Kentucky prison online lookup s/KOOL.aspx • Federal court records • Student loan default rates for every school nagement/cdr.html
  31. 31. Are those records online? • Financial info for university sports teams • University graduation rates and other metrics • Graduation rates for college athletes es/index.html