By Becky Killian/Managing Editor
Whitley County Judge/Executive Pat White said he reprimanded his staff after he received a complaint from the Times-Tribune about an open records violation by his office.
The complaint stemmed from an open records request the Times-Tribune faxed to White on Jan. 26 after the newspaper received what appeared to be a copy of a portion of a letter from the Kentucky Association of Counties to former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge.
The letter to White requested information about the county’s coverage through KACo as well as “the opportunity to review any correspondence, copies of claim forms or other documentation relating to a claim filed with KACo for legal representation for former Whitley County Sheriff Lawrence Hodge.” The letter asked White to contact the newspaper to arrange a time for the newspaper to review the documents.
White did not call and instead responded in writing with a letter that appears to bear his signature. He provided a copy of the Nov. 17 letter that again appeared to be only a partial copy of the document.
On Tuesday, after visiting White’s office, the documents were viewed and copied in their entirety.
Those documents as well as the Times-Tribune’s original request and the partial copy of the letter were faxed to Caroline Pieroni, one of the attorneys provided by the Kentucky Press Association to newspapers for consultation on open record and open meetings law.
After her review, Pieroni sent an e-mail to the Times-Tribune in which she said the documents showed an “egregious violation of the Open Records Act” since public agencies are required to notify those requesting documents that information has been redacted, or left out, as well as cite the exemption that allows for the redaction.
White, who was informed of the Times-Tribune’s complaint on Wednesday, called later that day and said he had verbally reprimanded his staff for the violation. He also apologized and said he would personally handle open records requests in the future.