Open Records

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A judge's order requires Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ted Sexton to disclose the front pages of incident and offense reports to the press and the public. But not in all cases.

Circuit Court Scott Donaldson's order Wednesday recognizes the sheriff has discretion to withhold investigative details in some reports.

However, Sexton or someone acting on his behalf, the judge says, must decide on a case-by-case basis which information to withhold instead of continuing his blanket policy of denial.

Donaldson's final ruling grants part of a request made by The Tuscaloosa News that the front pages of incident/offense reports are public record.

The newspaper sued Sexton in July of last year for access to the front page of incident and offense reports, which are compiled by the deputies who respond to 911 dispatches or similar calls for assistance.

Sexton says he hopes this week's final ruling ends the case, saying he will comply with it.

The newspaper's executive editor, Doug Ray, says whether further court action is necessary depends on Sexton.

Also, the judge denied the newspaper's motion that Sexton be required to pay its legal bill for the open-records lawsuit.

He also rejected an additional claim by Gary Huckaby, the Huntsville-based attorney representing The News, that Sexton was in contempt of the court because he wasn't abiding by a January court order.