Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Press association criticizes bill on new investigative agency

A bill to create another investigative arm of the state legislature has drawn criticism from the Kentucky Press Association over its secrecy provisions.

The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by Speaker Greg Stumbo and in the Senate by President David Williams, would set up the General Assembly Accountability and Review Division. The agency would conduct investigations, audits and reviews of all public agencies. The bill provides that proceedings of the new office would not be subject to the state's open record law and requires the cooperation of other state agencies and employees, including the attorney general and the auditor.

"Records addressed in this legislation, in our opinion, should be open to the public," Ashley Pack, general counsel for the KPA, told the Courier-Journal on Monday. "This creates an additional exemption to the Open Records Act, and adding exemptions should be done with great care."

Williams, the Burkesville Republican who is sponsor of SB 188, said the law is needed because the legislature must have the ability to investigate when no one else will. "We can't wait for a separate branch of government … to audit or not to audit."

Williams said the legislature's investigative arm would be treated like a commonwealth's attorney, county attorney or attorney general when it comes to the open records law. That is, he said, investigative records would be exempt.
However, current law covers records of the state police and attorney general's office. Records of investigations by those agencies are open, subject to exemptions within the law, when an investigation is closed.

Read the Courier-Journal story at http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009902240417

For a full text of the proposal, SB 188 and HB 540, go to http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/09RS/record.htm

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