Planning officials criticized for open records violations

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Attorney general: 'Continued inaction is not a legal option'

By Tracy Harris

Two rulings for open records law violations by county government were released in early November.

Oldham County resident Judy Ponder filed the open records appeals with the Office of the Attorney General in September.

Ponder asserted the county engineer and planning and development office both failed to fulfill records requests.

State law requires public agencies to determine within three business days if an open records request will be granted. If denied, the agency is required to send notification of why.

The attorney general’s office issued a ruling that county engineer Beth Stuber violated the opens records law by failing to respond.

Ponder submitted four separate requests, dated from June through August, requested various documents from Stuber pertaining to a lot near Ponder’s residence in Northwood East subdivision.

Ponder initiated the appeal after receiving no response to the requests. 

“She was legally obligated to respond,” according to the attorney general’s ruling. “She apparently chose not to do so.”

Stuber also “elected to ignore” a notification of the appeal sent to her office by the attorney general.

According to the ruling, Stuber must conduct a search and make available any nonexempt records requested.

The ruling concludes with, “Continued inaction is not a legal option.”

The appeal filed against Oldham planning and development officials accused the department of violating open records law by not providing written records to Ponder.

However, director Jim Urban invited Ponder to review all records in it its custody that pertain to her request at the development office.

Due to the “broad scope” of Ponder’s request, the attorney general found Urban’s decision appropriate.

However, the ruling did find planning and development in violation for failing to issue a written response within the three-day time frame. 

Both Urban and Ponder requested that the attorney general’s office take additional action in the matter.

Ponder accused Urban of retaliation for her open records appeals by requesting she submit open records requests directly to him so he can maintain a log of them. 

Urban asked the attorney general to determine that Ponder’s actions hindered the ability of his office to carry on with its normal functions.

Both requests were declined because the Open Records Act limits the attorney general’s office to issuing decision on whether an agency violated the act.