Tuesday, October 2, 2012

AG says Danville solons broke open-meeting law by deciding secretly to buy a building

UPDATE, Oct. 23: The city has appealed the decision to Boyle Circuit Court, The Advocate-Messenger reports.

The City of Danville violated the state Open Meetings Act by taking action in closed session to buy a building and failing to respond to a complaint about it from the local newspaper, Attorney General Jack Conway has ruled in a decision both sides received yesterday.

"The disputed action in an executive session took place July 23 during a City Commission meeting. There was no public vote regarding purchasing the building during open session that day," reports Stephanie Mojica of The Advocate-Messenger. "It wasn’t until Aug. 13 that commissioners publicly approved the purchase . . . a decision that has stirred some controversy, partially because Commissioner Ryan Montgomery’s father, Mike Montgomery, conducts business with the property’s now-former owner,  Mitchell Barnes of Lexington. On Aug. 13, commissioners said they had reached a 'consensus' during the July 23 executive session that allowed City Manager Ron Scott to move forward with plans to hire a bidder and secure the property through auction. However, a consensus is still a vote, according to the attorney general’s decision."

The commission had told the attorney general's office, "The Commissioners collectively stated to the City Manager that they could potentially approve of a purchase of the . . . building if the sale price was less than the appraised value" and that all of them supported the City Manager hiring "a professional bidder as its agent … so as not to showcase that it was the City bidding." The commission argued that it acted as the Florence City Council did when it agreed in closed session to settle a lawsuit, then approved the settlement at a later, open meeting. Conway's office said that didn't apply "because the appeal before us does not involve a settlement conference in litigation," and noted that "a commitment or promise to make a positive or negative decision" constitutes "taking action" under the open-meetings law. It also faulted the city for not responding to a follow-up complaint the Advocate-Messenger filed Sept. 14. For the decision, click here. For the story, go here.

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