Your Right to Know - Part II

To gain access to a document from a publicly-funded agency, the law in Kentucky says all you need is a request with a legible name, a signature, and a specific description of the document you're seeking. Some agencies in the survey requested identification, and some asked why the information was being requested. But the law says you do not have to show ID, or say why you want the info.

Last year, the "Kentucky Press Association' conducted a survey to gauge Kentucky’s compliance with open government.

Media Attorney, Jon Fleischaker, co-author of Kentucky's open records law: "To maintain our rights as citizens and as the press, you have to continually exercise those rights. That's important, so we know what our rights are. It's important, so the government knows what our rights are."

Survey-takers visited 114 of the commonwealth's 120 counties, asking to see a city budget, a county judge-executive's expense report, a school superintendent's contract, and a jail log.

Kentucky Open Access Survey
City Budgets 99/113
Judge-Executive Expenses 79/109
School Supt. Contract 56/110
Jail Logs 28/113

"Having been in law enforcement 33 years, and understanding the importance of not releasing personal information, I would tend to believe the jailers and deputies knew they should not give out personal information. And I would believe that was the reason personal information was not given out," says Warren County Jailer, Jackie Strode.

"We will give them the date, time, the agency involved in the arrest, their name, the charges, and the bond, if there is a bond."

Fleischaker has this explanation for some officials' reluctance to release records, "I've been around long enough, to really believe it's not maliciousness, it's not malice. It's just human nature. Bureaucrats begin to think it's theirs. Bureaucrats begin to think they can make decisions that affect everybody, cuz they know best. It's not the government's information, it's the information we're all entitled to, that the government uses to run our business. It's us we're talkin' about. It's not them versus us, it's us versus us."

In our final segment, we'll tell you what to do if the publicly-funded agency does not comply with your records request. And we'll see what the experts think the future holds for "your right to know."

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