For the fifth time this year, the Kentucky Attorney General’s office has decided that the City of Martin violated the Open Records Act.
The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office issued an order last week, reporting that Martin “subverted the intent” of the Open Records Act by failing to respond to a written request for records, failing to provide a detailed explanation of the cause for the delay in producing the records and failing to provide a date in which the records would be made available, as required.
The complaint was filed with the Attorney General’s office by Terry Thornsberry, a Martin business owner who has publicly opposed the city’s proposed annex of outlying areas.
Thornsberry submitted six open records requests to Martin on July 10, seeking various records, and he filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office on July 29, after receiving no response.
Thornsberry claimed the city is “blatantly disregarding his rights” under the open records law, the order states.
The order explains that the Open Records Act requires a public agency to produce requested public records within three business days, but grants some exemptions, such as when records are in storage or not otherwise available.
“Only if the parameters of a request are broad, and the records implicated contain a mixture of exempt and nonexempt information and are difficult to locate and retrieve, will a determination of what is a ‘reasonable time for inspection turn on the particular facts presented,’” the order states. “...In all other instances, ‘timely access’ to public records is defined as ‘any time less than three days from the agency receipt of the request.’”
The order notes that Martin was required to present a “detailed explanation of the cause for delay, and a written commitment to release the records.”
“The City has failed to provide any reasonable or detailed explanation for the delay in honoring (Thornsberry’s) request, thereby failing to fulfill its obligation under KRS 61.872 (5),” the order states. “...The City’s failure to provide a detailed explanation for delay and a statement of the earliest date certain for production of the requested records, for well over a month after the request, was a subversion of the intent of the Act short of denial of production of the requested records. The City must immediately make arrangements to produce the requested records to (Thornsberry).”
This marks the third open records decision that the Attorney General’s Office has issued regarding complaints that were filed by Thornsberry.
It also marks the fifth time that the office issued a decision ruling that Martin failed to appropriately respond to open records requests submitted by Thornsberry, Minnie business owner Rita Daniels and the Floyd County Chronicle and Times.
On March 14, the Attorney General’s Office issued two orders in similar cases filed by Thornsberry, reporting that Martin violated the Open Records Act by failing to respond, as required.
On March 15, the office issued another order in a complaint that was filed by Daniels. In that case, yet again, the Attorney General found that Martin failed to respond, failed to provide public records requested and delayed access to public records.
On March 19, the Attorney General issued another order in a complaint that was filed by the Floyd County Chronicle and Times, reporting that Martin subverted the intent of the Open Records Act by failing to provide timely access to all existing documents, by requiring the newspaper to make an appointment in order to inspect public records and by inappropriately redacting information from public records provided.
In most of these decisions, Martin also failed to respond to the Attorney General’s office about the appeals.