Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's office issued an opinion recently finding that the Madison County Detention Center violated state law in its handling of an open records request relating to a severely ill inmate who died after being transferred out of the facility.
The detention center failed to respond appropriately to the request, and it failed to provide access to the sought records pertaining to Marc Crawford, the attorney general's office determined in its opinion released Sept. 12.
Madison County Jailer Doug Thomas and Capt. Greg Johnson with the detention center both said the records were provided. Johnson sent a note to the attorney general's office after the complaint was filed stating "All requested materials were sent via U.S. Mail .... in a timely manner," the opinion from the attorney general's office states.
Crawford's wife, Dawn Crawford, whose attorney filed the request asking for video, medical and other records created while Crawford was an inmate at the facility, stated in her complaint that she received six CDs, two of which were blank. Two more of the CDs had "small clips of time but not the information requested." The final two CDs contained recordings of phone calls "that have been erased," with the exception of two recordings which were of the same phone call, Crawford stated.
The request filed by Dawn Crawford's attorney, Stephen F. Wilson, asked for all surveillance video and audio of Crawford created while he was detained at the facility, all medical records to include treating physician and nurse practitioner records, all vital sign and lab records, all medical interventions/records for Crawford, all isolation logs, all behavior logs and all incident logs.
Whether the records were produced is a factual dispute, and the attorney general's office does not generally determine which party's version is true. However, to whatever extent the detention center failed to provide the records, it was in violation of state open records law, the opinion states.
The opinion also states that the detention center was in violation due to its response to the request.
At some point after the submission of the request, Wilson received a letter from Johnson stating that the volume of the records requested could not be compiled in three days, and Johnson was getting the records together and would send them as soon as possible.
The law requires a public agency make a disposition of an open records request within three business days. The attorney general's opinion states that the law's intent is, with very few exceptions, the agency must produce the records in those three days, and not simply notify the requester that it will comply.
Because the detention center did not state that an exception applied, its response was "both procedurally and substantively in violation of the Open Records Act," the opinion states.
The detention center can appeal the opinion in circuit court. Alternatively, Dawn Crawford can take her case to circuit court if, in her estimation, the requested records continue to go unprovided.
Thomas said he and Johnson provided county attorney Marc Robbins the records that were sent to Wilson in response to the open records request for his review.
Robbins did not comment on the opinion, stating that he could not speak for the jail staff.
Marc Crawford, 45 at the time, was booked into the Madison County Detention Center May 25, 2017. Though online jail records show he was "released" on June 26, Thomas said Crawford was transferred in "early June" to the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange due to his illness. An official at Kentucky State Reformatory said Crawford was an inmate at that facility from June 1 to June 24.
Crawford was charged with first-degree wanton endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident. He was arrested on a warrant, which alleged that on May 2, Crawford followed a vehicle from Interstate 75 into Logan’s Steakhouse parking lot and struck the vehicle head-on. Both the driver and passenger of the struck vehicle exited the car, at which time Crawford backed up his truck and sped toward the driver, nearly hitting him, before leaving the scene.
The opinion was one of at least nine released last week by the attorney general's office. In addition to the opinion regarding the Madison County Detention Center, two others of the nine determined a violation of open records law occurred. One states the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government procedurally violated the Open Records Act by failing to provide a detailed explanation for an anticipated 59-day delay in providing records and by not citing the statutory exemption allowing delay. The other determined the Kentucky State Police improperly withheld a Response to Resistance Report as preliminary.
Reach Kelly McKinney at 624-6626; follow her on Twitter @kellymckinney18.