Monday, September 27, 2010

Attorney general faults Kentucky League of Cities, City of Salyersville in open-records cases

The Kentucky League of Cities wrongly denied a Covington lawyer's request for information on how much the group paid its attorneys in a case he handled against them, the attorney general's office has ruled. The attorney general's decisions in open-records and open-meetings cases have the force of law unless overturned in court.

In another opinion, the attorney general's office found that the City of Salyersville "subverted the intent of the Open Records Act, short of denial of inspection," when it refused a request by Jeff Ross for city employee payroll records. The city had demanded that Ross be more specific. The original request was "adequate for a reasonable person" to determine what he wanted, the decision said.

In the League of Cities case, Brandon Voelker told the KOG Blog he planned to use the information in a lawsuit against the league, accusing it of wrongfully defending the first case, which involved a claim for damages caused by a Northern Kentucky sewer overflow. The league had provided insurance to the sewer district.

The league claimed that giving Voelker the information would create unfair competitive or commercial advantage to other insurance providers, since legal costs help make up its insurance rates. The opinion rejected the argument: "We are well aware that KLC occupies a unique position as a public entity, subject to the Open Records Act, that is engaged in a competitive business. Nevertheless, KLC offers no proof of competitive harm from disclosure of the records."

The opinion added, "The legislature's apparent goal in enacting these provisions was to expose KLC, and similarly situated public entities to the light of public scrutiny and not, simultaneously, to establish exceptions that swallow the rule of openness and accountability." For more background on KLC and the Kentucky Association of Counties' open-government issues, click here.

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