Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conway tells Shelby County to release records of law-enforcement calls to a certain address

Shelby County's 911 emergency dispatch service violated Kentucky's Open Records Act in denying a records request by a Shelbyville resident, Attorney General Jack Conway ruled last week.

The decision, which has the force of law, came in an appeal filed by Antoinette Taylor. She had asked for information on law-enforcement runs to 103 Grey Hawk Drive, Shelbyville, between May and September of this year. Taylor, who is listed as head of Act Now Ministries at 101 Grey Hawk Drive, could not be reached for comment.

Shelby County E911 Communications refused to give Taylor the data, citing a provision of the Open Records Act that exempts from disclosure records that "constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy" of those involved. However, the attorney general's ruling said "The weight of legal authority, coupled with the facts of this case, militate in favor of disclosure." The decision noted that decisions on exceptions from the law must be made on an individual basis, not as a blanket rule, and that the agency claiming such an exemption must provide proof to support it.

The ruling also cited a previously unpublished decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals in January 2009, before the Kentucky Open Government Blog began. The three-judge panel voted 2-1 to order the Marshall County E911 board to release call recordings, not just data about calls. The appeals court noted that there were competing interests between "the 911 caller's right to privacy when seeking police assistance versus the public's right to know about the conduct of government agencies." It noted that possible embarrassment to the caller in that case was insufficient, and that all such decisions are "intrinsically situational, and can only be determined" on a case-by-case basis.

For the full text of the attorney general's decision, see Links of Interest at the bottom of the KOG Blog. For the appeals court decision, go here.

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