The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office issued a decision this week, ruling that the City of Martin has once again violated the Open Records Act.
Assistant Attorney General Michelle D. Harrison wrote in the decision that Martin violated the act by failing to either comply with requirements of the law or properly invoke a provision of the law that allows local governments to delay inspection of requested records. The city also subverted the intent of the act, Harrison wrote, in failing to provide timely access to all existing documents sought by the Floyd County Chronicle and Times.
The newspaper sought copies of check registers and bank statements for the City of Martin, Martin City Water, Martin City Sewer and Martin City Tourism for March through July in August, following the city council’s failure to approve check registers at city council meetings and comments from a city council member who complained about the non-approval of those bills.
The city failed to respond to that request within the three-day time required by the Open Records Act, and responses were not provided after the city officials were contacted by phone on Aug. 16, at a meeting on Aug. 27 and by phone on Aug. 28.
Harrison reported that the City of Martin also failed to respond to requests from the Attorney General’s office about the Open Records Act complaint filed by the newspaper.
“As of this data, the Attorney General has not received any written response from the Mayor, the City Clerk or the City Attorney, nor has anyone contacted this office to request additional time in which to submit a response,” Harrison wrote in the decision. “Neither of the Notifications was returned as being undeliverable. This continued inaction by the City constitutes a clear violation of KRS 61.880 (1).”
Harrison goes on to explain that because Martin is a public agency, it is required by law to comply with the Open Records Act, and it must follow procedures for that response as laid out in the statute.
“The City had multiple opportunities to fully discharge its duty under KRS 61.880 (1) ... A public agency such as the City is not permitted to elect a course of inaction,” Harrison wrote.
Citing the law, Harrison wrote that Martin “must provide” copies of the requested records unless it can show proof in writing a basis for denying access in terms of one or more of the exceptions codified in the law.
The decision references another Open Records Decision issued this year in which the attorney general’s office determined Martin subverted the Open Records Act by failing to provide copies of documents requested by the newspaper.
“Accordingly, this office will not recapitulate the well-established law regarding the application of these provisions in this decision; the analysis contained at pages 4-9 is equally applicable on the facts presented,” Harrison wrote, referring to the prior decision. She goes on to explain that Martin subverted the intent of the act by failing to provide timely access to these records.
This decision marks the sixth time this year that the attorney general’s office has issued a decision stating that Martin violated the Open Records Act.
The newspaper still has not received copies of the records requested.
At the time the open records request was filed in August, Martin officials reported a monthly deficit of $15,000 on city check registers. During the council’s most recent meeting in September, the deficit was reported as $55,000.