Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Attorney general's office says 2 fiscal courts and a city commission violated open-meetings law

In decisions released today, the state attorney general’s office said the city of Danville and some county fiscal courts violated state open-government laws. The attorney general's opinions in open-meetings and open-records matters have the force of law unless overruled in court. The attorney general ruled that:

The Nelson County Fiscal Court failed to adequately describe the reason for a closed session June 22. The court had cited both pending and proposed litigation as reasons for closing the meeting. In an appeal filed by Kevin Brumley, the attorney’s office said the state Open Meetings Act requires more than simply a citation of the act and a general statement such as “litigation,” but said the standard was different for “pending litigation” than “proposed litigation” because timing is often crucial in deciding to file a lawsuit, while a pending lawsuit already was on open file at the courthouse. The former reason was insufficient, while the latter was sufficient.

The Rockcastle County Fiscal Court violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to give all the required notices before every special meeting held between Jan. 1, 2008 and May 28, 2010. The ruling came in an appeal filed by County Clerk Norma Houk, who complained that the court had held some 43 meetings in that period without properly notifying those the act requires to be notified. The law requires that 24 hours before the meeting, notice go to members of the court and news media, and that a notice be posted in a conspicuous place in the building where the meeting will be held. The fiscal court also failed to reply to Ms. Houk’s complaint as required by law, the ruling said.

The Milton City Commission in Trimble County violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to give proper notice of two meetings of a quorum of its members at which public business was discussed, failing to record minutes of these meetings, and failing to respond to an open meetings complaint alleging these violations. That ruling came in an appeal filed by Shannon Hoskins over meetings involving the hiring of Water and Sewer Department Supervisor Mark Bates.

In an open-records case, the City of Danville failed to respond to a request for records within the three days required by the Open Records Act, but since the precise records asked for by Clay Moore – “signed copies” of several municipal parking-garage lease agreements – could not be found, the unsigned copies it eventually furnished were sufficient.

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