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Jailers released public jail logs only one in four times, FOI audit shows

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    News Media Update         KENTUCKY         Freedom of Information         Feb. 11, 2005    

Jailers released public jail logs only one in four times, FOI audit shows

  • The first statewide public audit of Kentucky’s Open Records Act shows mixed compliance with the law, with a majority of public records requested released.

Feb. 11, 2005 — A majority of superintendents, city managers and county attorneys in Kentucky complied with open records requests but the state’s jailers released their logs only one-fourth of the time in a statewide test of the Open Records Act published this month.

The Oct. 21, 2004, audit examined compliance with the state’s Open Records Act in 114 of the 120 counties in the Bluegrass State. The Kentucky Press Association, The Associated Press and many of the state’s newspapers organized more than 100 students, volunteers and newspaper employees who requested as many as four public records in each of Kentucky’s 114 counties. They did not identify themselves as part of the project and asked for the records as citizens.

“The main goal was to increase awareness of public records and access thereto,” said John Nelson, managing editor of The Advocate-Messenger in Danville, Ky and former Kentucky Press Association President.

The results of the October survey vary. A request to inspect the Greensburg city budget resulted in a smile, a free copy and a piece of candy while a request for a list of prisoners at the Montgomery County Jail sparked a demand for identification and intimidation by jail employees, AP reported. The requester, 21-year-old college student Dariush Shafa, refused to show identification, AP reported.

The state law does not have an identification requirement and requires only that a request include a legible name, a signature and description of records. The law also states government agencies “cannot make a person intending to use records for a non-commercial purpose state his or her exact purpose.”

In addition to city budgets and jail logs, county judge-executive expense reports and school superintendent contracts were requested as part of the audit.

Of the 113 county jails audited, 28 jails released the jail log while 67 denied the request, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Eighteen of the cases were inconclusive.

Nelson blames the jailers’ low compliance rate with a lack of education about the law, which was passed in 1976. He hopes the Kentucky Jailers’ Association will work to educate jailers about the law.

Kentucky jailers stood out in their non-compliance of the law among four states — Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee are the others — that conducted public records audits in the last year, AP reported, citing the University of Missouri Freedom of Information Center’s Web site.

The statistics generated from the audit show that despite resistance from jailers, others were more compliant, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader:

— Of the 110 superintendents’ contracts requested, 56 were released and 13 were denied. The remaining 41 requests were inconclusive.

— Of the 113 city budgets requested, 99 were granted. Only one city refused the request. Thirteen were inconclusive.

— Of the 109 county judge-executive expense reports requested, 79 were granted and nine were denied. Twenty-one were inconclusive.

AB

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© 2005 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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