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Kentucky Open Records Act

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The Kentucky Open Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Kentucky. Statutes KRS 61.870 to 61.884 define the law.

The Kentucky Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Kentucky FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and Kentucky sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of lawsuits in Kentucky (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon tot he right of the "year" heading).

Lawsuit Year
Bowling v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government 2005
Courier-Journal v. City of Louisville 2006
Courier-Journal v. Kentucky High School Athletics Association 2005
Courier-Journal v. University of Louisville Foundation 2005
Kentucky Central v. Park Broadcasting 1996
Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government v. Lexington Herald-Leader Co. 1997
Skaggs v. Redford 1992
Zink v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Department of Workers' Claims, Labor Cabinet 1994

Proposed changes


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011

We do not have any legislation for Kentucky in 2011.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010

We do not have any legislation for Kentucky in 2010.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009

Senator John Schickel proposed Senate Bill 30, which would exempt the recordings of calls to 911 from public access.[1] The bill allowed for transcripts of the calls to be made public, but not the actual audio.[2] Opponents of the bill were calling it "a waste of time, your tax dollars and is a dangerous move toward limiting free speech and open records/sunshine laws" and "a poorly thought out solution to a mostly non-existent problem."[3][4]

SB 30 had been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was heading to the floor for a vote as of early February 2009.[5]

Senate Bill 188 would create a General Assembly Accountability and Review Division to conduct investigations, audits and reviews and otherwise monitor the activities of public agencies.[6] The agency would be exempt from KORA.[7] The Kentucky Press Association was opposing the exemptions provisions in the bill.[8]

Kentucky's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Kentucky #28 in the nation with an overall percentage of 51.30%.[9]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Kentucky 47 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 26 out of the 50 states.[10]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Kentucky's law as the seventh best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "C+."[11]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The declaration of intent states, "The General Assembly finds and declares that the basic policy of KRS 61.870 to 61.884 is that free and open examination of public records is in the public interest and the exceptions provided for by KRS 61.878 or otherwise provided by law shall be strictly construed, even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment to public officials of others."[12]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

The definition of public record in Kentucky law is expansive, including "all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, discs, diskettes, recordings, software, or other documentation regardless of physical form or characteristics, which are prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency."[13]


A number of exemptions are outlined in Kentucky ORA 61.878 that must be noted. Exemptions include:

  • "Public records containing information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy"[14]
  • Scientific research
  • Commercial records with regard to grants, loans, banking, future business propositions or that would create an unfair competitive advantage
  • Examinations
  • Police investigations that would jeopardize informants or undercover officers
  • "Preliminary drafts, notes, correspondence with private individuals, other than correspondence which is intended to give notice of final action of a public agency" and "Preliminary recommendations, and preliminary memoranda in which opinions are expressed or policies formulated or recommended"[14]
  • Records of donations where the donor has requested anonymity
  • Records that would jeopardize security with regard to infrastructure or individuals

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The definition of agencies in the Kentucky ORA includes all government bodies at both state and local levels, as well as all bodies who receive 25% of their funds from the public body or a majority of their governing body is appointed by other government agencies.[15]

It is also interesting to note that if the department to which the records are requested does not possess the records, they are obligated to notify the person requesting of the department that does possess the records.[16]


See also: Legislatures and transparency

The Kentucky Open Records Act includes the state legislature within its definition of public body under Kentucky ORA 61.870.1.

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-Kentucky

The Kentucky Open Records Act applies to all private entities that receive public funding and those private entities that were created and are controlled by a public entity.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material and scientific research are explicitly exempted under Kentucky ORA 61.878.

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Anyone may request public records in Kentucky. "All public records shall be open for inspection by any person."[17]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

The act specifically designates that specific commercial purposes must be stated at the outset of a records request.[18]

Further, if the department feels that records place an unreasonable burden on government or are deemed to be intended to merely disrupt the functions of government then the request may be refused.[16]

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

The use of records which were declared for a commercial purpose are strictly limited to only that purpose for which they were declared. Any records without the declaration of a commercial purpose cannot be used for a commercial purpose.[18]

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

Kentucky law sets a three day limit on records requests but allows for extensions if the extension is justified in writing to the person requesting the records.[16]

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

For non-commercial requests the department may charge a fee for the cost of the material and equipment involved with duplication but may not charge for the staff time needed for duplication.[18]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

Only copies requested for commercial purpose allow additional fees to be charged for the staff time consumed by both search and duplication.[18]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

If an individual's request for access to public records in the possession of a state governmental agency is denied, in spite of proper compliance with request procedures detailed under the state's open records law, the requester may ask the state's Attorney General to review the decision after first providing the Attorney General's Office " a copy of the written request and a copy of the written response denying inspection."[19] Within 20 days, the state Attorney General will issue a written decision as to whether or not the state governmental agency did indeed violate the provisions of the state's open records law. The state Attorney General is also authorized to review requests in which the requester feels as though the intent of the open records act is "being subverted by an agency short of denial of inspection, including but not limited to the imposition of excessive fees or the misdirection of the applicant."[19]

Should either party feel as though the Attorney General's verdict is unsatisfactory, one of the parties may file an appeal with the local Circuit Court within 30 days of the decision being issued. If, however, an appeal is "not filed within the thirty (30) day time limit, the Attorney General's decision shall have the force and effect of law."[19]

Open meetings

The Kentucky Revised Statutes define the purpose for open meetings law as: "the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret and the exceptions provided for by ... law shall be strictly construed."[20]

See also

External links