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Dennis George made an open records request of the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission on Sept. 23. As of Oct. 20, he had not received the records he requested.
That is unacceptable.
The Kentucky Open Records law requires that a public agency receiving such a request has three days (not counting weekends and holidays) to respond. Now, this does not necessarily mean turning the records over in three days, but it does mean they have to get back to the person making the request.
In an ideal world, the commission would have made copies of the records and turned them over to George, who is a member of the commission, which is all the more reason to comply with the request.
As we understand the situation, George made his initial request to Chairman Dan Lawson. After allowing more time than necessary for a reply, George repeated his request on Oct. 12. This time, the request was passed along to the commission’s executive assistant, Carla Wagner.
During the commission’s Oct. 20 meeting, Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw said City Attorney Kandice Engle-Gray was working with Wagner to meet the request. While that is appreciated, it still seems that this has taken far too long.
George could have made an appeal to the Attorney General’s office, and frankly, he showed more restraint than this newspaper would have if it had not received a response to a request.
George has the same rights as any citizen seeking to see public records. In this case, he has requested all phone records, emails and written communication with Chris Hamilton since Aug. 19.
Hamilton is the former executive director who resigned to accept a similar position in Aurora, Ill. After he left, he continued to possess a Blackberry cell phone belonging to the commission at the wishes of Lawson, who wanted to be able to reach Hamilton regarding ongoing tourism issues.
Hamilton’s use of the cell phone and the commission’s ongoing reliance on him for information has been a point of contention between George and Lawson.
Whether or not commissioners like that George made the request is irrelevant. But, it appears to have at least been a factor in an effort to request George’s resignation from the commission during last week’s meeting, which is troubling in its own way. However, when it came time to make the motion, no one did so.
George has said it’s fair for people to question whether or not he should have made his request or even the timing of his request (when the commission was without an executive director). But he was also correct when he said that when a request is made it should be addressed.
Open records (and open meetings laws) exist so that anyone can see what their governments are doing. Email communications with and between government officials and phone records certainly fall within the definition of public records. There are some exceptions, such as if the emails are of a personal nature that would constitute and unwarranted invasion of privacy.
In this case, George has made a reasonable request. While they may not like it, the commission has had more than enough time to comply with it.
We hope they do so, soon.