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Kentucky Open Records Act

The summer is a good time for Americans to reflect on the unique freedoms, rights, and liberties bestowed upon them. In the words of Kentuckian and United States President Abraham Lincoln, the United States government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. The Kentucky Open Records Act provides an avenue for Kentuckians to exercise their right to access public records.

The Kentucky General Assembly enacted the Open Records Act (KRS 61.870 to KRS 61.884) in 1976. The Open Records Act grants Kentuckians the right to access their government and information through public records. These records must be open for inspection, regardless of whether they’re paper or stored on a computer. According to the Act, public records must be accessible to everyone. If anybody is denied access, they can seek enforcement of the Act. Kentucky law grants the Office of the Attorney General authority to oversee compliance and full access. The only exception comes when records are exempt by one or multiple of the fourteen exemptions. All 14 exemptions are specified within the Open Records Act.

The Open Records Act was created to provide Kentuckians with government transparency and accessibility to public records. Many will ask “What is considered a public record in this context”? Public records are records that are maintained by state and local government agencies. Agencies subject to the Act include state and local government officers, departments, and legislative bodies. City and County government bodies, such as school district boards, special district boards, and municipal corporations are also covered by the Act. Public records from state and local government agencies created by statute or legislative acts fall under the Open Records Act too. Lastly, any entity receiving at least 25% of their funds from a local or state authority are included in the Open Records Act. The Act is wide ranging. With the exception of the 14 exemptions, it covers most organizations and agencies that have some affiliation with state or local government.

If someone requests records for certain commercial purposes, they must state that upon their request. When records are received for commercial purposes, they may only be used for the commercial purpose originally stated. In some instances, there may be a small fee for records requested for commercial purposes. This is simply compensation for the employees that search, duplicate, and send the requested records. According to Kentucky law, agencies have a three day period to fulfill an open records request. This period may only be extended if an extension is properly justified in writing to the individual that made the request.

The Open Records Act was a monumental step for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. All 50 states have now enacted some version of the Open Records Act. The Act provides transparency and grants access to public records for Kentuckians. Whether for commercial or legal purposes, the Open Records Act is utilized every single day. If you have questions about the Open Records Act or how to submit a request, it’s best to reach out to an experienced attorney to assist.