Public Records Access and Personal Data Privacy in Kentucky
The Kentucky Open Records Act is a law that was passed in 1976 that was designed to give citizens of the state access to the public records and information of their government institutions. Much like other open records or sunshine laws around the country, the Kentucky Open Records Act lays out the procedures that residents must follow when looking to access the public records of a particular government agency or public body within the state. Furthermore, the law also establishes the measures that said agencies and bodies must abide by as it concerns the accessibility of their public records, as well the specific records are exempt from disclosure under the law.
How are public records defined under the law?
The Kentucky Open Records Act defines public records as “all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, discs, diskettes, recordings, software, or other documentation regardless of physical form or characteristics.” KRS 61.870(2). The Open Records Act applies to any of the foregoing types of records that are “prepared, owned, used, in possession of or retained by a public agency.” On the other hand, the law defines public agencies as “all government bodies at both state and local levels, as well as all bodies who receive 25% of their funds from the public body or a majority of their governing body is appointed by other government agencies.”
What are the responsibilities of public agencies under the law?
The responsibilities that public agencies within the state of Kentucky have under the law as it pertains to ensuring that citizens of the state have the ability to request access to their various public records include:
- Public agencies have a duty to provide Kentucky citizens with suitable facilities that said citizens can use to exercise their rights under the law.
- Public agencies must permit the access, copying, and inspection of their public records during said agencies’ regular office hours.
- Public agencies are responsible for appointing an official custodian that be will in charge of the maintenance, care, and keeping of a particular agency’s public records.
- Public agencies are required to develop, implement, and maintain rules and regulations that members of the public can follow when looking to request access to their public records, in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- Public agencies are responsible for redacting any confidential or exempt information contained within their public records before disclosing said records to a requestor.
- Public agencies must respond to a request to access their public records within 3 business days from the date on which the request was received.
When can a public agency deny a request to access its records?
The provisions of the Kentucky Open Records Act dictate that public agencies within the state can deny a request to access their public records under certain circumstances. For example, an official custodian working on behalf of a public agency within Kentucky may deny a public record request if said request is unreasonably burdensome, or if the request could potentially disrupt a public agency’s essential functions. When denying a public record request, official custodians must also provide the requestor with a written explanation of the details or factors that led to their decision, as well as the clear and concise supporting evidence that formed the foundation of their decision. Alternatively, there a certain public records that are exempt from disclosure under the law. Some of these exemptions include but are not limited to:
- Commercial records regarding grants, loans, banking information, and future business propositions.
- Records that must remain confidential in conjunction with another state or federal law.
- Records of donations, in instances where a donor has requested anonymity.
- Police investigations.
- Trade secrets.
- Scientific research.
The Kentucky Open Records Act and redaction software
Due to the fact that the provisions of the Kentucky Open Records Act require that public agencies redact confidential information from their public records, redaction software is an ideal software solution for records custodians that are looking to maintain compliance with the law. Using these software program offerings, records custodians can easily obscure exempt information contained within their public records, including names, dates of birth, postal addresses, and telephone numbers, among others, guaranteeing that these forms of personal information will remain secure. As such, said records custodians can be assured that they will not violate any of the provisions of the Kentucky Open Records Act.
Public record legislation such as the Kentucky Open Records Act serves as the primary means by which the average American citizen can gain any level of transparency and accountability from their local and state government officials. As elected officials have an obligation to serve the people that make up their local communities, it is imperative that American citizens have the legal right to request access to the information that forms the basis of government expenditures and activities, as the taxpayer dollars of these citizens are what local government around the country rely on to adequately function.