A circuit court judge has ruled in favor of an Oldham County magistrate suing his own fiscal court for refusing to reveal the name of a company that donated $100,000 to the county. The judge also ruled the county held an illegal secret meeting and ordered it to publish a "clear record" of what it had done.
Judge Karen Conrad fined the fiscal court $2,600 plus attorney's fees in the case, an "infrequent but not unheard of" action, according to the state attorney general's office.
A similar case involving the city of LaGrange, which also received a $100,000 donation from the same company, ended when city officials agreed to reveal the name of the donor, George Rawlings, owner of the Rawlings Group, an insurance services company located in LaGrange.
The controversy began a year ago when Rawlings gave the money to the city and county under condition that the donations remain anonymous. Magistrate Scott Davis filed an open records request with Oldham County Judge-Executive Duane Murner but was refused. Davis and local activist Dewey Wotring, who runs a website named OldhamCountyWatchdog.com, asked the attorney general for a ruling. The attorney general's office first ruled against the two, then in two later opinions ruled that both the fiscal court and the city had violated open records laws.
When Murner was quoted as saying he would defy the attorney general's rulings, the two filed separate cases in the circuit court. Judge Conrad is expected to rule in Wotring's case shortly.
Both Wotring and Davis said in interviews that they were concerned that the donor might have been trying to influence or seek benefit from the county. Wotring said he would continue to investigate the donations because the Rawlings Group is involved in several pending land transactions in Oldham County.
Judge-Executive Murner said that he was disappointed by the ruling but that he was "not too beat up about it." He said he would comply with the requirement for an accounting of the secret meeting, but that "I don't think we have any notes from it. We'll have to do it by recollection."
The full text of the ruling can be found at http://www.uky.edu/CommInfoStudies/IRJCI/DavisVs.Oldham.pdf. The two attorney general's rulings, 09ORD004 and 08ORD248, can be found at http://ag.ky.gov/civil/orom/list.htm.