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ACLU of Kentucky

ACLU-KY Defends Activist’s Access to Public Records

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky announced October 24, 2017 that it would represent community activist Michael Maharrey, who was sued by the City of Lexington after he attempted to obtain documents relating to 29 surveillance cameras owned and operated by the Lexington Police Department (“LPD”).

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.” On appeal, the attorney general’s office rejected both exemptions claimed by the LPD. At that point the city sued Maharrey.

 “One of the fundamental principles of our government is transparency. The public has a right to know the actions of government officials and disseminate that information to others. City officials appear to be shirking their responsibility to provide records they are obligated to provide by law, simply because they don’t want the public to have access to them,” said ACLU of Kentucky Attorney Heather Gatnarek.   

Mr. 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 over the summer. The open records request was part of We See You Watching Lexington’s efforts to learn more about surveillance and ensure some accountability exists.

“It turns out it doesn’t,” Maharrey said. “This lawsuit underscores the need for transparency and oversight when it comes to government surveillance in Lexington. The police clearly want to keep their surveillance programs hidden. We need to push for structural changes that will force government agencies in Fayette County to operate transparently.”

We See You Watching Lexington is pushing for introduction and passage of a local ordinance that would take the first step toward limiting the unchecked use of surveillance technologies that may violate basic privacy rights.

ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Clay Barkley of Strobo Barkley PLLC and ACLU of Kentucky Attorney Heather Gatnarek represent Maharrey.

Click here to read a copy of the City of Lexington’s lawsuit.

Click here to read a copy of the ACLU-KY’s answer.