A public agency that holds meetings must allow the public to be present unless there is a valid exemption claimed by the agency to allow it to meet without the public present.
On Oct. 4, 2016, Attorney General Andy Beshear issued an opinion in the Open Meetings appeal of In re: Ray Gough/Calloway County Board of Assessment Appeals, 16-OMD-214.
Gough submitted a written complaint to Ryan Stanger, chairman of Calloway County Board of Assessment Appeals on Aug 26. In the complaint, he said that he had been present at the meeting but was ordered to leave until called back in, to which he objected.
He said he was not allowed in the room during various portions of the meeting.
He included proposed remedies to the violation. The board did not respond, which prompted Gough to appeal on Sept. 20, 2016.
In response to the appeal, the board stated that the only portion Gough was excluded from was the training and orientation of new members, acting on the directions of a representative of the Department of Revenue, and no business took place.
The board also noted that it felt that that portion of the meeting was not subject to the Open Meetings Act. It also added that it thought Gough left voluntarily after making his presentation and was not asked to leave.
Gough pointed to the minutes of the meeting, which stated that appeals would be heard individually and those appealing property assessments would have to stay in the hall until their case was heard. He also cited KRS 61.810(1) which says open meetings are any meeting with a quorum where public business is discussed.
Beshear said a quorum of the board was present in a closed meeting with the property valuation administrator to receive training. Citing a previous opinion, 03-OMD-178, Beshear found that a training session is not just procedural and does constitute public business.
Because the meeting contained public business, the board violated the Open Meetings Act by excluding Gough and the rest of the public from it.
Finally, Beshear stated that from the minutes and record he had, there was not enough evidence about when Gough was asked to leave, but could have been another violation. This also applied to the swearing in of members and the selection of a chairman, which would be a further violation if they had excluded the public.