GLASGOW — An ongoing open records appeal will proceed to trial Thursday after no agreement was reached during a status hearing Wednesday morning on the release of a full investigative report into the Barren County Detention Center.
After a three-month process and two subpoenas, private investigator Michael J. Ober came forward this week to say he never wrote a full report on his jail investigation. Instead of a report, Ober submitted to Judge Phil Patton a thumb drive of investigative notes and recordings. Ober is still required to appear as a witness in the trial that begins Thursday at 9 a.m. in Barren Circuit Court.
The case began in May, after Ober was paid $3,500 by Barren County Fiscal Court to investigate allegations of misconduct at the jail. Ober's contract required that he provide “a written report accurately detailing the results of the investigation,” but at a May 1 meeting, Ober only provided a summary of his report. He told the fiscal court that he had a complete report, but he preferred to give the full report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation instead of the fiscal court.
“I have taken my statements and formulated a report, ultimately summarized it here and presented it to you all,” Ober told the court on May 1. “The FBI, for the most part, is already aware of what I have and I told them obviously I would have to ask my client before I could turn it over.”
The fiscal court voted for Ober to give the report to the FBI, after County Attorney Jeff Sharp said, in response to a question by Magistrate Carl Dickerson, that the full report would not be subject to open records law if the county did not have it.
The Glasgow Daily Times filed an open records request for Ober's full investigative even though the fiscal court did not have possession of it, because the newspaper argued being paid for with taxpayer money made the report an open record no matter where it was kept. The county denied the Daily Times' request, but an appeal to the attorney general resulted in a favorable ruling for the newspaper. The attorney general found that physical location or poor recordkeeping did not determine a document's status as an open record. The fiscal court owns Ober's report, and therefore it is an open record.