Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mount Olivet violated both open-meetings and open-records laws, attorney general rules

By Taylor Moak

The Mount Olivet City Council violated the Kentucky open meetings and open records acts in its actions surrounding special meetings and a request for documents, the attorney general’s office ruled in August.

The first attorney general’s decision about the council, which was released Aug. 24, said the council violated the Open Meetings Act for not complying with notice requirements before holding a special meeting on July 16.

The council also committed a violation for failing to issue until Aug. 8 a written response to two complaints made July 26, and it committed a violation if public business was discussed in an “admitted meeting of a quorum of members without proper notice,” according to the decision.

The second decision, released Aug. 30, said the council violated the Open Records Act when it did not respond in a timely manner to an open records request.

Tony Beach, a resident of Robertson County, where Mount Olivet is the county seat, filed the appeals with the attorney general’s office.

Beach said he had been attending the city council meetings to hear discussion of plans to annex a new school that is a few miles outside of the city limits. The proposed annexation would also include his home.

“I started going to the meetings because I don’t want to be within the city limits,” Beach said.

He said over the years, the city has not been run in an organized fashion.

Over the summer, he went to attend a meeting of the city council where plans to replace a vacant city council seat would be discussed.

But he said the special meeting wasn’t advertised, and he was told that it wasn’t a special meeting. He said he was allowed to stay at the meeting, but he filed a complaint after that meeting because the people of the city did not have an opportunity to attend the meeting.

When he asked for the minutes of the meeting, the council couldn’t produce them, Beach said.

In his July 26 request to the council, Beach asked for eight items, including the minutes from the July 16 and July 23 special meetings, and all emails, correspondence, minutes or notes from meetings pertaining to current or future annexation plans. Beach also requested the names of any news media that have requested to be notified of the council’s special meetings.

Beach said in an appeal letter that he filed with the Attorney General’s Office that he never received a written response to his request, but when he attended a council meeting on August 6, he was handed two of the eight items he requested without explanation.

W. Kelly Caudill, an attorney from Maysville, represents the city council. In his Aug. 13 response to the attorney general, Caudill said of the July 23 meeting that “some council members met for the purpose of introducing themselves to a prospective new council member who was interested in filling a vacancy on the council. That council and the mayor did not conduct any city business.”

Caudill said he advised the mayor and the council “that any time there is a quorum that they must comply with the Open Meetings Act and treat same as a special meeting providing at least 24 hours notice.”

In his response to Beach’s request, Caudill said the city council “must respectfully deny same as they are in the excess of what the statute requires.”

A worker at Caudill’s law firm said she spoke with Caudill and “he indicated that he has no comment.”

Beach said the attorney general’s decisions puts the city council “on notice that someone is watching” and his primary focus remains not being annexed into Mount Olivet.

“My biggest concern is being annexed into a city that doesn’t know how to be ran correctly,” Beach said.

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