Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Richmond board must follow Open Meetings Act before it can adjourn to closed session

The City of Richmond Codes Enforcement Board violated the Open Meetings Act, according to the attorney general's opinion. 

On Oct. 18, Andy Beshear, the Kentucky Attorney General, issued an opinion in the matter of In re: Ray Gough/City of Richmond Codes Enforcement Board, 16-OMD-227.

The board held a meeting on June 15, 2016. In that meeting, testimony was heard about condemning a house, after which the board went into executive session to discuss. After the session ended, the board voted to condemn the house. The minutes of the meeting did not reflect the vote of the code enforcement board.

Gough submitted his Open Meetings complaint on Sept. 8, 2016, stating that the closed session was not authorized or the board did not follow the correct procedures when entering the closed session. He included remedies in his complaint.

The board responded on Sept. 13. The response stated it was a quasi-judicial body and could go into executive session to “evaluate and discuss the evidence as to its endeavors to reason a decision,” per KRS 61.810(1)(j).

Gough appealed to the attorney general's office on Sept. 29. He argued the board does not fall within the statute cited in the board's response and that KRS 61.8815 requires code enforcement boards to hold all meetings with public access.

He also argued that none of the prerequisite requirements were taken to enter closed session, and finally that the board took final action in the closed session while failing to record the vote on the minutes.

On Oct. 6, the Board responded by stating it is in fact a quasi-judicial body and is not required to comply with formalities of closed sessions. It also denied any final action was taken in the closed session.

Beshear noted that not only does KRS 61.8815 apply to public agencies when they have meetings, but the Open Meetings Act does as well. He also stated that his office does not have the power to enforce violations of that statute in the context of an Open Meetings appeal.

He went on to find that the code enforcement board is required to follow the formalities when it enters a closed session, per KRS 61.815(1). In not doing so, the Richmond board violated the Open Meetings Act. The opinion also found insufficient evidence the board took final action in the closed session.

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