Local News

December 23, 2013

Rescue Squad violates Open Records Act

Family of missing man seeks documentation of investigation



However, the Attorney General’s Office does not have authority to pursue any fines or penalties when such an action occurs. In fact, there are no listed penalties or fines under the Open Records Act if the records are not released.

In that event, the next course of action would be for the attorney to file a civil suit against the rescue squad, with hopes the records will be released through an order by the circuit court judge. If fault is found against the party which is “willfully withholding” records, that party could be fined as much as $25 per day until the records are released.

In an interview with The Sentinel-Echo Wednesday, Vanhook claims he did send documents to the family’s attorney that showed the days and hours that rescue squad members were on Laurel Lake searching for Holmes. He added the costs of those hours — which were monitored by the Laurel County Emergency Management office and paid by public money from the City of London and the Laurel County Fiscal Court — were also included with the documents.

“We are a resource agency,” Vanhook said. “We go out and assist the fire departments or police or emergency management. We are not the investigating agency. In this case, the U.S. Forest Service is, and I was told by the detective for the Forest Service not to release any records because this is an ongoing investigation.”

Vanhook said he was currently preparing an answer to the Attorney General’s Office regarding their decision on Open Records violation.

“I’m sure when they get my letter they will understand that I cannot release any records except what I already sent the attorney,” he added.

The subject of the controversy is Clarence Holmes, a 32-year-old Berea resident, who disappeared after a wind and rain storm on July 5, 2012. Holmes was at Holly Bay Marina on his family’s houseboat, preparing for a family gathering that weekend. He was out on a pontoon boat and actually helped other boaters secure their boats and belongings as the storm approached. His unoccupied pontoon boat was beached on a small island near the Marsh Branch boat ramp after the storm, with all his belongings still aboard the boat.

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