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Cheney visit records not exempt as 'homeland security'

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   KENTUCKY   ·   Freedom of Information   ·   Dec. 8, 2005

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   KENTUCKY   ·   Freedom of Information   ·   Dec. 8, 2005

Cheney visit records not exempt as ‘homeland security’

  • Expense and personnel records for police services provided when the vice president visited the state cannot be withheld from the public under a homeland security exemption, a judge ruled.

Dec. 8, 2005  ·   Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s office must release expense records for state police assigned to Vice President Dick Cheney’s March visit to the state, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting claims that they fell within an exemption to protect against a terrorist attack.

Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Roger Crittenden ruled that homeland security exemptions to the state Open Records Act do not apply to the records from Cheney’s visit. The exemption allows agencies to withhold certain records if they can show their release would pose a “reasonable likelihood of threatening the public safety by exposing a vulnerability in preventing, protecting against, or responding to a terrorist attack.”

In ordering the records released, Crittenden wrote: “There is little ‘reasonable likelihood’ that the numbers of Kentucky State Police assigned in this situation or the amount of tax dollars expended will expose a vulnerability in the security measures taken when the vice president of the United States travels from Louisville International Airport to southern Indiana.”

Gov. Fletcher’s general counsel denied initial requests from The Associated Press in April, citing the homeland security exemption. The AP sought the number of state police personnel assigned to escort Cheney to and from the airport, as well as overtime and expense records for the agency during a March 28 trip for a political fundraising event in Indiana, for which the Kentucky state police provided additional security and traffic control.

After Gov. Fletcher’s general counsel denied AP’s request on April 1, the wire service appealed to the Attorney General’s office, which upheld the denial, also citing the homeland security exemption.

But Crittenden said the open records law’s threshold standard needed to close those files had not been met and ordered the records released.

Though the administration could ask the Court of Appeals to review the ruling, the AP views it as a victory for open records.

“We think this ruling is important in upholding the provisions of the Kentucky Open Records Act,” Hank Ackerman, AP’s Louisville bureau chief, told the wire service.

(The Associated Press v. Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky State Police; Media Counsel: Jon Fleischaker, Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP, Louisville, Ky.)KT

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