Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Request for records in a nonstandarized format gives discretion to state agency

The Kentucky State Police did not violate the Open Records Act by providing the documents in a portable document format in response to a request for the records in an Excel spreadsheet.

On Oct. 17, 2016, Attorney General Andy Beshear issued an opinion in the appeal of an Open Records request in In re: Marcus Green, WDRB/Kentucky State Police, 16-ORD-225.

Green, a WDRB reporter, on Aug. 5, 2016, requested records relating to state police acquisition and auction of weapons. He asked for the information in an Excel spreadsheet “should it exist.”

State police responded on Aug. 15 with a copy of the requested records on a compact disc with the results in PDF formatting.

In the appeal, Green argued about the difference in format, stating that “KSP’s decision to provide a database kept in Excel or a machine-readable format as a PDF violates” the act, citing KRS 61.874(2)(a).

Beshear compared the actual request with the wording of KRS 61.874(2)(a), as Green merely requested the information would be preferable if it existed. He also noted that Excel files are not standard electronic format.

Beshear noted that the request for Excel format was nonstandarized, which then required him to look at KRS 61.874(3), for how the agency may respond. The law says that the agency “may at its discretion” provide it in the requested format.

Here the state police exercised its discretion and chose not to provide in the requested format, which means the agency did not violate the Open Records Act.

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