Thursday, April 22, 2010

KPA appeals over denial of Midway budget

The Kentucky Press Association has appealed to the state Attorney General's office the refusal of Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth to release copies of the city's proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The Midway City Council is scheduled to discuss the budget proposal on Monday. The Midway Messenger had asked in writing for a copy after Bozarth gave it to council members. Bozarth refused, saying the budget was "purely preliminary" and wouldn't be released until the council has finalized it. The Messenger is a blog and website run by Professor Al Cross at the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues as an outlet for stories written by students in his community journalism classes.

In its appeal, the KPA argued that exemptions to the Kentucky Open Records Act relating to drafts and recommendations were limited.

"Our position is that it ceases to fit that phrase ("preliminary") once it is distributed to and discussed by members of a public agency at a public meeting. After all, a budget is the basic policy document for a government," the KPA said.

Midway is located in northern Woodford County, halfway between Lexington and Frankfort. For the Messenger story and a link to the appeal, go here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Beshear signs superintendent-secrecy bill

Gov. Steve Beshear yesterday signed into law Senate Bill 178, which will allow school boards to deliver evaluations of superintendents behind closed doors. Opponents of the bill had asked Beshear to veto it. The law, which takes effect July 14, will reverse recent court decisions. See previous coverage below.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kentucky ranked most transparent state for online government spending records

A new report, rating each state's use of online databases to give the public information about government spending, lists Kentucky as the only state getting an "A" grade. The report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a long-established government watchdog, "evaluates states’ progress toward 'Transparency 2.0' – a new standard of comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility," it says in a news release. The report reveals at least 32 states "currently mandate that residents be able to access an online database of government expenditures with 'checkbook-level' detail."

Kentucky led all states with a grade of 97 percent. The next closest was Ohio at 84. Kentucky's Web site only lost points for not linking funding related to the federal stimulus act and for not including financial information for local and county budgets. "Openness in government has been a top priority of this administration, and it is gratifying that our extensive efforts have not only received notice, but have been ranked the best in the nation," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement. "As we face an unprecedented $1.5 billion shortfall over the next biennium, it is more important than ever for government to be transparent and accountable, and for citizens to feel confident that their tax dollars are being used efficiently and responsibly. I’m proud of the efforts we have made, along with the bipartisan support of all of the state’s executive-branch constitutional officers and Kentucky’s judicial branch, to put our checkbooks online for public view in a comprehensive and user-friendly manner." The legislature, also divided between the parties, is likewise moving to put its records in the system. (Read more)