The McCreary County Fiscal Court and the county Industrial Development Authority need to give one of the county's newspapers records relating to a $60,000 loan the county made to the other paper to start a television station, or they must explain why it shouldn't, the office of the attorney general ruled in an open-records decision released today.
The McCreary County Record asked County Judge-Executive Blaine Phillips for "any documentation concerning a loan to The McCreary County Voice and/or its agent, Patricia Stephens." Phillips declined, citing to News Editor Janie Slaven the exception in the Open Records Act for "records confidentially disclosed to an agency or required by an agency to be disclosed to it, generally recognized as confidential or proprietary, which are compiled and maintained in conjunction with an application for or the administration of a loan or grant."
The decision, written by Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver, said, "While it is possible that some records, or portions of records, submitted by the loan applicant, such as financial statements or a description of the applicants’ financial stability, may qualify for protection . . . KRS 61.880(2)(c) assigns the burden of proof in sustaining the denials of Ms. Slaven’s requests to the agencies, and no proof of any kind is submitted in support of those denials. It is for this reason that the agencies’ responses are both procedurally and substantively deficient."
The decision puts the ball back in the county's court, to turn over the records, give a more detailed reason or challenge the opinion in circuit court. Here is the Record's Nov. 25 report on the loan. The Voice Web site is at http://newspaper.tmcvoice.com/.