Government insurance rehabilitator not subject to records act
KENTUCKY–An appeals court in Lexington in mid-January overturned a television station’s earlier court victory granting it access to the records of an insurance company. It held that the insurance rehabilitator, though appointed by a “public agency” — a circuit court — was not itself a public agency under plain language of the open records act.
The court found that the role of rehabilitator, who is appointed to manage failing insurance companies, was not synonymous with that of the state commissioner, who was subject to the open records act.
In July 1993 Bob Hensley, a reporter with WTVQ-TV in Lexington, requested from the state’s insurance commissioner the names of corporations and individuals bidding for certain assets of Kentucky Central Insurance Company. The company had earlier become the subject of a court-ordered rehabilitation under the direction of the state’s Department of Insurance, and the state rehabilitator took possession of the company’s assets for the purpose of administering them under the court order.
The department refused Hensley’s request on four grounds: the information was not part of “public records,” the rehabilitator was not a “public agency,” the information was statutorily exempted as a preliminary correspondence with private persons, and premature revelation of the information would jeopardize the rehabilitation.
The state’s attorney general reversed that decision, ordering the records disclosed. A district court agreed with the order of the attorney general before the appellate court again denied the reporter access to the records. (Kentucky Central Life Insurance v. Park Broadcasting; Media Counsel: Foster Ockerman, Jr., Lexington)