Friday, November 27, 2009

City utility bills public if they aren't for persons, attorney general rules in Danville case

Individual billing data at a city utility is public if it doesn't reveal information about individual persons, the state attorney general's office has ruled.

The open records decision, which has the force of law but could be appealed, was requested by Clay Moore of Danville, who often requests records from public agencies in Boyle County but has never fild an appeal with the attorney general, for whcih there is no charge. He asked the city water and sewer department for bills of Centre College,Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center and Central Kentucky Ambulatory Surgery Center LLC.

The agency declined to release the records, citing a 1996 attorney general's decision. The latest decision overturned that one, saying it was “erroneously postulated on the notion that equal privacy interests could be attributed to aggregate information contained in a water bill for a customer with multiple unidentified users. . . . The interest of the public in ensuring that the department has, and fairly enforces, a uniform billing structure for all customers outweighs the nonexistent privacy interest implicated by the disclosure of the requested billing records.”

The 1996 decision was issued when Ben Chandler, now 6th District U.S. representative, was attorney general. The latest decision, which said the office has the right to change its mind, was written by Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver and approved by Attorney General Jack Conway. Moore "said Monday he is pleased with the ruling and wants to obtain the information to verify whether the large utility customers in question are being billed properly for their usage," reported David Brock of The Advocate-Messenger. (Read more)

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