Monday, May 3, 2010

Attorney general says Whitley County sheriff must reply to records request from newspaper

The state attorney general's office has ruled that Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge violated the state open-records law by refusing to respond to a request for a list of auxiliary deputies from the Times-Tribune of Corbin. But the paper's editor, Samantha Swindler, says that as far as she can tell, no list has ever been maintained.

The attorney general's opinion came after Hodge failed to respond to Swindler's request, which had been based on an assault case involving a man claiming to be an auxiliary deputy. Hodge told the state office that the list could be found in the county clerk's office. But Swindler says the clerk has told her that, even though such deputies must be sworn in by a county judge, the clerk was never given any information about anyone being sworn in.

Swindler says the county sheriff's office refuses to talk to anyone from her daily newspaper. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is investigating the reported theft of guns, drugs and other evidence from the sheriff's office. The newspaper has published several reports on that and other irregularities involving the sheriff's office, including shortfalls in its budget.

The attorney general's opinion noted that while state law regulates the appointment of special deputies, auxiliary deputies are not mentioned. Nonetheless, the sheriff's failure to respond to Swindler was "legally deficient." For a complete text of the ruling, see Links of Interest at the bottom of the KOG Blog.

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