Jessamine County E-911 has violated the Kentucky Open Records Act in denying a request for recordings of 911 calls relating to a February traffic accident involving an ambulance, according to an opinion released by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
The opinion was sought by Jessamine County EMS employee, Amanda Wood, after she was denied by the county and E-911 director Shelby Horn for recordings related to the crash which sent seven people to the hospital.
Wood, maiden name Moore at the time of the accident, was an emergency first responder in the ambulance which had its sirens on when it passed through a red light and collided with a truck headed eastbound on Ky. 169. The ambulance ricochetted into two other vehicles.
The driver of the ambulance, 19-year-old Samuel Sparks and the passenger Tina Honaker were also injured, as well as four people in the other two vehicles.
Sparks is no longer with Jessamine County EMS and has been sued by the passenger of the truck he hit.
Wood's sought a copy of the audio recordings of “all 911 calls, patches from EMS” relating to a “10-46 with EMS-1” that occurred on Feb. 11, 2012, at 12:39.
She was partially denied in her request and sought an appeal from the attorney general.
Horn, E-911 director with Jessamine County Emergency Services, told Wood in a letter dated Feb. 21 that audio information of the 911 calls cannot be released which exempts "public records containing information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The OAG disagreed, stating Horn's response was deficient because she failed to offer any explanation of how the cited exception applies to the records withheld.
"Significant interest of the public in monitoring the actions of the 911 operators discharging their public function outweighs the minimal privacy interests of the unidentified callers in this context," the opinion states.
Basically, the dispute is whether or not the records are appropriate to be released to the public because of a 911 caller's right to privacy and possible subjugation to retaliation, harassment, or public ridicule.
Assistant Jessamine County Attorney Joseph C. Allison responded on behalf of E-911 to the OAG.
Allison's defense stated that Wood was not just a member of the public who was involved in an automobile accident thus not privy to those tapes. However, Allison also provided the OAG with a CD recording of the 911 calls in dispute. Without revealing the information contained on the CD, the OAG found that E-911 "accurately, if generally," described the calls withheld as "only of citizens notifying E-911 of the collision, and E-911 informing the citizens that the appropriate actions have been taken.”
But in the end, the OAG found that Jessamine County E-911 did not present sufficient facts to justify withholding those records.
The county attorney's office still has the right to appeal the decision of the OAG in Jessamine Circuit Court.
"Situations like these are decided on a case-by-case basis," Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl said.
Goettl said his office would discuss the OAG's opinion with Horn, Allison and the Jessamine County Fiscal Court before deciding if they want to appeal it or release the recordings.
The county attorney's office has successfully refuted an OAG's opinion in Jessamine County Circuit Court in the past, Goettl said.
Incidentally, Wood's husband, Andrew, is a former EMS employee who is suing the county, fiscal court Judge-Executive Neal Cassity and EMS director Jerry Domidion.
Andrew Wood believes he was retaliated against for his support of a sexual harassment claim against Domidion.
He feels there was a slow response time by Domidion to the February wreck in which his wife was involved as part of that retaliation.
Goettl said that Andrew Wood's lawsuit is completely unrelated to the tapes or their decision to release them.