Friday, August 19, 2016

Even ad hoc committees must keep records of its activities, meetings

An ad hoc committee is a public agency and must keep records, which will be subject to the provisions of the Open Records Act.

Attorney General Andy Beshear issued an opinion in In re: April DeFalco/City of Falmouth, 16-ORD-130, on June 30, 2016. 

The opinion found that the city violated the Open Records Act when it failed to maintain records of the Falmouth Festival Committee, an ad hoc committee.

The request was submitted May 11 to multiple officials of the city government, requesting the budget and expenses for a parade that was to take place in July. DeFalco stated in her request that she would wait for the budget on June 14 and the expenses on July 12, after the event had occurred. 

She also requested documents for events held in 2015 and the final two months of 2014. DeFalco asked for checks made out to the committee and two individuals for the same months, plus purchase orders for those dates. Lastly she requested credit card charges and purchase orders for the city related to the committee and all events the city participated in in 2015 and 2016. 

Five days later, on May 15 the city responded to the parade request saying that all expenses for donations prior to an attorney being in control were not tracked, but have been since he’s taken charge. The response also stated that the committee didn’t have a budget, but that the city allocates $1,000 for the July parade in its Community Activities budget. 

The city provided all minutes and documents related to the events for the requested years. For the checks request, the city provided DeFalco with only those for one person for the two years. The purchase orders request was given just for the 2015 Christmas Parade and the credit card charges of the committee were for the 2015 Christmas dinner, and the city would give those documents for the 2016 Senior Bash by the end of the week. 

Three days later, DeFalco appealed to the attorney, not having heard anything back from the committee itself but only the city clerk. The city responded on May 27, stating the request was fulfilled with all responsive records in the city’s care. The response also argued there was no official Festival Committee, but just a group of loosely organized civic-minded citizens who are willing to help with city events. 

DeFalco then argued that the committee uses the city’s insurance, tax exempt number and letter head, as well as city resources, with reports about events monthly at city council meetings. She also stated that the committee is chaired by the mayor and has been for nine years. 

The opinion of the attorney general cited KRS 61.870(1)(j) to illustrate that an ad hoc committee created by a public agency is itself a public body and thus is subject to the Open Records and Open Meeting acts.

He then cited to KRS 61.8715, stating that public agencies must manage and maintain records according to the Open Records Act. Because the committee did not generally maintain records as required, Beshear found it had violated the Open Records Act. 

No comments:

Post a Comment