Attorney General declares open records decision

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Ava Chuppe , Senior Writer

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has made a decision in the appeal filed by Paducah news station WPSD Local 6 regarding the University’s denial of their open records request, saying the University violated the Open Records Act.

In the decision distributed to General Counsel Robert Miller and WPSD attorney Michael Abate on Feb. 2, Cameron declared the University violated the act by withholding an email describing past events and denying a request that “sufficiently described the records sought.”

Cameron determined the University did not violate the act by withholding other emails, which were exempt as preliminary drafts and records that did not address the main matter.

WPSD made the initial request in October 2022 after the University denied a similar request from WKMS, the public radio station at Murray State. WPSD’s request sought WKMS correspondence regarding alleged video footage of former 42nd Judicial Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson roaming the Marshall County Judicial Building in his underwear.

The University rejected the request from WPSD, calling it “unduly burdensome.” The appeal followed, challenging the University’s claim correspondence with WKMS was protected under the First Amendment.

WPSD’s request covered two types of records. The first was “correspondence, including but not limited to emails and attachments, responses and threads, letters and other forms of communications” between five individuals regarding the solicitation of video footage by WKMS. The second was “correspondence…regarding WKMS news” between nine individuals. 

The University denied the second request on the grounds it was burdensome and did not specify the desired correspondence. However, Cameron decided the University violated the Open Records Act in doing so because WPSD’s request was reasonable and “sufficiently described the records sought.”

The University also claimed the first request would require additional time to meet, requiring examination of “thousands” of records. Cameron called this figure speculative and concluded it failed to prove the request was unreasonable.

Cameron determined some University emails were rightfully redacted under KRS 61.878(1)(i), which protects short correspondence that directs recipients to other sources and does not constitute meaningful communication in itself.

However, the decision noted one redacted email was not protected under the statute because it “described a past event and the author’s justification for his past actions” rather than pointing to further correspondence.

In the request denial, the University previously stated WPSD’s request violated the First Amendment and infringed on the press freedom of WKMS. Cameron’s decision rejected this claim, declaring the First Amendment does not prohibit the disclosure of any records. 

Though the University argued the request would have a “chilling effect” on the press, the argument did not prove state-funded organizations like WKMS were exempt.