Open Records Fight Over Surveillance Camera Records Goes Back to Lower Court

Appeals judges want lower court to take a closer look at reasons why Lexington Fayette Urban-County Government wants to withhold documents

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
June 28, 2019 3:15 pm

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — An appeals court today required a lower court to again review the case involving Lexington Fayette Urban-County Government’s (“LFUCG”) refusal to release documents relating to 29 surveillance cameras owned and operated by the Lexington Police Department (“LPD”).

Community activist Michael Maharrey was sued two years ago by the City of Lexington after he attempted to obtain the documents. LPD denied Maharrey’s request citing a statute that exempts certain documents relating to homeland security, along with a second statute exempting certain “investigative reports,” and claimed that disclosing the records would be a threat to police and public safety. Judge John Reynolds ruled last summer that LFUCG improperly relied on the statutes in their denial of Maharrey’s request and ordered the records released. The city appealed the decision.

“The judges on the appeals court believe there is certain fact-finding needed before making a final conclusion on whether the documents should be released. We look forward to continuing to litigate this case. We believe that a court review of the documents, which the Court of Appeals has ordered, will demonstrate that the city’s claims that the information represents a threat to police and public safety are unfounded. We hope and anticipate that the court will again move to uphold Kentucky’s strong Open Records Law and allow public access to these important records,” said ACLU of Kentucky Attorney Heather Gatnarek.

Maharrey founded a grassroots organization called We See You Watching Lexington to address surveillance issues after the city installed cameras at Berry Hill Skate Park. Maharrey said he is looking forward to continuing the fight to obtain the documents he’s been seeking for two years in order to learn more about the surveillance happening in Lexington and ensuring some accountability exists.

“This is all about transparency and oversight. Lexington residents should be able to know what type of surveillance equipment the police department is using and the types of policies they have in place to govern its use. The way I see it, this is the first step toward limiting the unchecked use of surveillance technologies that violate basic privacy rights and feed into a broader national surveillance state,” said Maharrey.

ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorneys Clay Barkley and Julia Taylor of Strobo Barkley PLLC and ACLU of Kentucky Attorneys Heather Gatnarek and Corey Shapiro represent Maharrey.

View a copy of the court’s order here.

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