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State Police need not make available public electronic files

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    NMU         KENTUCKY         Freedom of Information    

State Police need not make available public electronic files

  • The Kentucky Attorney General’s office said the State Police have a legal right to deny the public electronic records, and instead supply only paper copies of even voluminous reports.

Nov. 10, 2003 — Even when state police records are available electronically, journalists in Kentucky can be allowed access to only paper files.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office ruled last month that the State Police Department can deny a reporter electronic access to the state’s registry of concealed weapon licenses, even though the registry exists in that form. The state’s Open Records Act requires that the registry be made public, but journalists must pay for the 400-page log, the Attorney General’s office said.

Opinions by the Attorney General’s office in interpreting the state’s Open Records Act are binding in Kentucky.

On Sept. 22, Andrew Tangel, a reporter for The (Frankfort) State Journal, requested a copy of the State Police’s database of Kentucky residents who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon. Officials there denied Tangel the database, citing a statute enacted in 2000 that allows them to provide public information in paper-form only.

Tangel appealed, and on Oct. 27 the Attorney General’s office released an opinion supporting the State Police Department’s decision.

According to the 1994 statute, “nonexempt public records used for noncommercial purposes shall be available for copying in either standard electronic or standard hard copy format,” to the requester, although “agencies are not required to convert hard copy format records to electronic formats.” However, Assistant Attorney General Michelle D. Harrison said the statute the General Assembly passed in 2000 supercedes the 1994 law, The Associated Press reported.

Carl West, editor of the Journal, said he was disappointed with the opinion. The Journal won’t likely create its own database, West said, because putting the more than 80,000 licensee names into a spreadsheet would require far more man-hours than his staff has available.

In filing his appeal with the Attorney General’s office, Tangel shared his editor’s frustration.

It’s “an unjustifiable encumbrance . . . that is violative of the spirit of Kentucky’s Open Records law,” Tangel said.

VR


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