Thus, defining what is a public agency under state law is an important topic for understanding the requirements placed on such agencies in Kentucky.
KRS 61.805 defines public agency for open meetings purposes, and KRS 61.870 defines the term for open records purposes.
The following list includes the entities Kentucky's open meetings law defines as public agencies. Though the statute can be a bit dense to read, setting out the statute in full provides a basis for understanding two recent decisions of the attorney general's office that addressed whether bodies are public agencies.
Under Kentucky's open meetings law, a "public agency" is defined as:
- (a) every state or local government board, commission, and authority;
- (b) every state or local legislative board, commission, and committee;
- (c) every county and city governing body, council, school district board, special district board, and municipal corporation;
- (d) every state or local government agency, including the policy-making board of an institution of education, created by or pursuant to state or local statute, executive order, ordinance, resolution, or other legislative act;
- (e) any body created by or pursuant to state or local statute, executive order, ordinance, resolution, or other legislative act in the legislative or executive branch of government;
- (f) any entity when the majority of its governing body is appointed by a “public agency” as defined in paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (g), or (h) of this subsection, a member or employee of a “public agency,” a state or local officer, or any combination thereof;
- (g) any board, commission, committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, advisory committee, council, or agency, except for a committee of a hospital medical staff or a committee formed for the purpose of evaluating the qualifications of public agency employees, established, created, and controlled by a “public agency” as defined in paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), or (h) of this subsection; and
- (h) any interagency body of two (2) or more public agencies where each “public agency” is defined in paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), or (g) of this subsection.
There, Barker had appealed to the attorney general's office after he felt the county board failed to adhere to statutory requirements for a meeting in June, at which his property tax assessment appeal was heard.
In its analysis, the attorney general's office stated that it could "find no express or implied exclusion for the board from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act." The attorney general's office also could not locate any statute or any administrative regulation that addressed "the board's public hearing process or its exclusion from the requirements of the Open Meetings Act."
Thus, the attorney general's office sought to determine whether the county board fell into a definition of public agency provided under the open meetings law and found that:
[t]he Bourbon County Board of Assessment Appeals is a local government board that is created pursuant to state statute whose governing body is appointed by a public agency, the Bourbon County Fiscal Court, and two local officers, specifically, the county judge/executive and the mayor. It therefore falls squarely within the definition of the term “public agency."As a public agency, the county board had to comply with the open meetings act's requirements, and it failed to do so when it excluded Barker from portions of its meeting without citing a statutory basis for its actions, the attorney general's office found.
Similarly, in re: Jim Waters/Kentucky Board of Education, 15-OMD-155, the attorney general's office found that a committee of the board of education was a public agency under Kentucky's open meetings law.
There, Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, challenged the board of education's denial of his open meetings complaint. In his complaint, Waters asserted that a committee of the board had failed to observe statutory requirements.
In its review, the attorney general's office noted that "public agency" is broadly defined under Kentucky law. Since the committee had been created by the board and was charged with a specific task---that of managing and narrowing the search for a firm to help the board find a new commissioner of education---the attorney general's office agreed with Waters' characterization of the committee as a public agency.
In both of these decisions, a finding by the attorney general's office that an entity was a public agency had ramifications for what was expected of the body under Kentucky law.
The key point is that if a particular group is found to be a public agency, it must comply with the statutory requirements of the state's open meetings and open records laws.