Thursday, July 16, 2009

Attorney general tells Madison County to release more records about antenna tower

Madison County officials who invoked the threat of terrorism and protection of a vendor’s proprietary information to avoid releasing records were wrong, and failed to prove their case on either issue, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway ruled this week.

Conway issued the decision, which has the force of law, in a case involving a request for public records on the construction of a 300-foot antenna tower on county land near a residential subdivision. The county fiscal court and emergency management office had released some of the records requested by Thomas Vergamini, but refused to release others, which they claimed included information marked “proprietary and confidential” by the unidentified vendor. The two offices also stated they would “not provide any records that have a reasonable likelihood of threatening public safety by exposing vulnerability in this emergency communication system: Whether it is in preventing, protecting against, mitigating, or responding to a terrorist incident or disaster.”

Conway ruled that the officials could not claim exemption from the Open Records Act with a simple statement, but had to show a “real threat” of harm to the vendor, and to the public. They failed to do so, Conway said in finding for Vergamnini. The officials now have to release the records or appeal to circuit court.

The opinion was one of several released recently by the attorney general’s office. Others included:

OAG 09-005: Former employees of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, including the Office of the State Medical Examiner and of the Kentucky State Police Laboratory, are not entitled under Kentucky law to hourly compensation when subpoenaed to testify in a case arising from their duties while employed by the Commonwealth.

09-ORD-098: Franklin County School District failed to establish that an open-records request was inadequate and placed an unreasonable burden on the district. As described, records identified in district's admittedly limited search were excluded from public inspection by KRS 61.878(1)(i), (j), (k), and (l), but it is incumbent on the district to conduct a broader search of its paper and electronic files to locate any remaining records.

09-ORD-099: Decision adopting 07-ORD-188 and 07-ORD-190 regarding the statutory obligations of a public agency upon receipt of a request for nonexistent records or those which the agency does not possess; a public agency is not required to produce nonexistent records, nor must a public agency “prove a negative” in order to refute a claim that certain records exist. In the absence of a prima facie showing that additional records exist in the possession of the Johnson County School District aside from those already provided, its disposition of the request is affirmed in accordance with Bowling v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Ky. 172 S.W.3d 333, 340-41 (2005), and prior decisions of this office.

09-ORD-101: Decision adopting 07-ORD-188 and holding that in the absence of a prima facie showing by requester that responsive records exist that have not been furnished, Transportation Cabinet properly disposed of request by providing requester with all such records in its custody and notifying him that no additional records exist. Attorney General's office is not the proper forum for dispute resolution relating to discrepancies in records produced for inspection.

For the full text of these opinions, see Links of Interest at the bottom of the KOG Blog.

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