Thursday, December 8, 2011

Disclosing total fees for sewer project does not invade customers' privacy, attorney general rules

The City of Danville violated the state Open Records Act substantively and procedurally when it failed to respond timely and gave an invalid reason for refusing to reveal fees generated by a sewer project, the state attorney general's office has ruled.

On Oct. 12, Clay Moore requested “one copy of the revenue received by the City of Danville, by month for 2009, 2010, and 2011, to date, from commercial and residential sewer fees generated from the Mocks Creek Sewer Project for Northpoint [Training Center], Hunt Farm Subdivision and residential customers of Gwinn Island.”

Moore did not receive a response within three days as the open-records law mandates, and he appealed to Attorney General Jack Conway. On Oct. 31, 19 days after the original request, the city clerk issued a response denying the request on grounds of privacy, the exemption found at KRS 61.878(1)(a). Conway ruled that “disclosing the requested aggregate information would not identify the water and sewer usage of specific individuals,” so “that information cannot properly be characterized as personal.” The law says the exemption applies only in case of “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The attorney general noted a similar case prompted by the city's refusal to let Moore see similar records, and stressed that “the interest of the public in ensuring that the Department has and fairly enforces uniform billing structure for all customers outweighs the nonexistent privacy interest implicated by the disclosure of the requested billing records.” He noted that the city had “generic billing information without individual customer names which could be used to verify billing methodology and calculations.”

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