Bluegrass Beacon: Spray schemes with transparency disinfectant

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Privatization done right can be a boon for taxpayers and those dependent on government services.

Outsourcing medical care for veterans – an idea floated by President Drumpf – would very likely reduce wait time and improve the quality of care received by those who have served our nation.

It couldn’t get much worse.

Too many veterans have died or needlessly suffered while waiting in line because of the inept delivery of government-provided care.

Worse, there’s an inadequate level of urgency to fix the problem.

Such earnestness is likely to be more present if a private company whose reputation and future is on the line is charged with delivering the care.

There’s really not a strong case for claiming that government somehow delivers medical care, builds roads, lands planes or more effectively educates children than conscientious competent engineers and teachers in the private sector.

However, even the fact that private entities can, and often do, provide these products and services at lower costs and more effectively doesn’t eliminate government’s proper, if limited, role of ensuring sound contracts, proper oversight and responses to demands for accountability, including transparency related to the spending of taxpayer dollars.

Just because government may not be the best entity to deliver a service doesn’t negate or minimize the importance of ensuring such services get delivered and that citizens still have access to how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.

Creators of Kentucky’s sunshine laws diligently sought to provide such protection and ensure that outsourced services relying heavily on taxpayer dollars were transparent by making private companies deriving at least 25 percent of their funds from state or local agencies subject to the open records law.

However, loopholes created during intervening years weakened the law, allowing private entities like the Utility Management Group (UMG) to take Pikeville’s Mountain Water District (MWD) and its ratepayers for a ride in recent years.

UMG played hide-and-seek with ratepayers’ dollars behind those amendments, which – for some untenable reason – exempted funds received for certain types of publicly bid goods and services as being subjected to the 25-percent rule.

It must be deemed unacceptable by all taxpayers and legislators that not only did UMG deny the MWD itself the cost of operating the district, it thumbed its collective nose at then-state Auditor Crit Luallen’s request for cost information.

Whether UMG is subject to Kentucky’s open records laws will be decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court, which heard arguments in February but has yet to rule.

Kentucky legislators should now decide once and for all that secretive, costly and questionable, if not outright corrupt, agencies like UMG – which gets most of their revenues from public sources – need more, not less, light.

Private companies must understand: if they want to use taxpayer dollars to do business with government, how they spend those dollars must be subject to public scrutiny.

Failing to provide such oversight led to a decision by the Legislative Ethics Commission to fine former Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, after one of his companies won $171,000 in no-bid sewer line projects he voted to include in the state budget.

Hall was later convicted and imprisoned for bribing a mine inspector.

Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, who defeated Hall in his re-election bid in 2014, has twice introduced bills to close the loopholes and spray the disinfectant of transparency all over these public-private schemes.

“Regardless of whether a contract is placed for bid or not, the public’s business should be open and available for inspection and review,” Harris replied in a text message seeking comment.

Could consistently ensuring such transparency be even better than a disinfectant? Could it also serve as a vaccine against future secretive, self-serving and corrupt arrangements?

Let’s find out.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Outrageous contracts: Cutting spending in the state

As we’ve been saying for years, Kentucky’s pension system must be reformed. We’ve emphasized — and do so again here — that the structure of each system’s benefits must be addressed in order for any additional funding to positively impact the systems’ long-term fiscal health.

Even with such reforms, however, additional monies must be found from somewhere to begin filling Kentucky’s $40 billion unfunded liability. The best place to start would be cutting current wasteful spending in the state budget.

An obvious target is government contracts says Louisville attorney and former state representative Bob Heleringer in his recent Courier-Journal columns. Heleringer highlights some of the most outrageous allocations:

  • The University of Kentucky spending $90,000 to hire an executive director of the UK Alumni Association, $90,000 to find a senior philanthropy director for the college of engineering and $360,000 for an executive vice-president for health administration.
  • UK additionally pays $400,000 for ongoing consulting from a company in Silver Spring, Maryland to help with “diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
  • The University of Louisville spending $795,000 on the search for a new president.
  • Eastern Kentucky University spending $67,600 to look for a new provost as well as $30,000 for one more person on their alumni and donor engagement team.
  • Morehead State spending $57,000 on a consultant in Topeka, Kansas to facilitate online math classes.
  • The Kentucky National Guard budgeting $75,000 on a consultant to “change the culture.”

While the Bluegrass Institute is not opposed to quality education and hiring competent professionals, unnecessary spending must be reined in if we hope to make progress on filling in our deep public-pension hole and make our Commonwealth attractive for economic vitality.

A Kentucky senator talks Obamacare repeal

Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator, recently explained his stance on the Senate’s healthcare bill. While acknowledging that he is part of a “team” in the Republican party, Paul stands on principles rather than blindly submitting to the party. Paul’s convictions led him to stand against the Senate’s Obamacare “repeal” bill. Paul explains that rather than repealing Obamacare, it keeps:

  • “the majority of Obamacare taxes,”
  • 10 out of 12 “major Obamacare regulations,”
  • “unsustainable expansion of Medicaid,”
  • insurance subsidies using taxpayer money, and
  • a “$200 billion bailout” of insurance companies.

This particular legislation is failing in the Senate, leaving an opening for real change. Actually repealing the Affordable Care Act would result in benefits not only for the nation in general but for Kentucky in particular.

Bluegrass Beacon: Make health care affordable again

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Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Whether the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month, offers an effective repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – affectionately known as Obamacare – is the subject of much debate as the Senate takes up another attempt to deal with the failed health care fiasco.

It’s indisputable, however, that any replacement plan failing to deal with cost – the primary malady affecting health-care policy – is an effort in futility.

A growing body of evidence suggests that not only has Obamacare done little to address the cost of health-care products and services, it’s exacerbated the problem.

Recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates average premiums are 105 percent higher for Americans in the 39 states purchasing policies through the federal exchange in 2017 than for individuals’ plans in 2013 – before the exchange was created.

The analysis further unpacked reports that the average individual market premiums rose from $2,784 before Obamacare had kicked up to $5,712 in 2017.

“Affordable” Care Act, anyone?

All of this, it seems, would produce a wonderful opportunity for Republicans, who control Congress, the presidency and most state legislatures to use the leverage given them by voters to tattoo history with:  “Here’s how you do health-care reform,” and do it right.

Don’t get your hopes up.

Insurance-company lobbyists and welfare recipients have joined forces to weaken the resolve of many legislators who campaigned for changing a policy that never should have been implemented in the first place.

We would’ve been much better off seven years ago, instead of passing Obamacare, to adhere to the wise adage of President Calvin Coolidge: it’s “much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.”

Still, killing not only Obamacare but its foundational ideas and approaches remains a priority.

More than reasonable doubt exists concerning whether the AHCA comes anywhere close to doing this – with its Obamacare-like approaches to taxes, subsidies and even mandates.

Northern Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie, one of 20 Republicans to oppose the AHCA, sassily compared the legislation to a kidney stone, charging “the House doesn’t care what happens to it, as long as they can pass it.”

Yet even when it comes to something as politically charged as whether we’re going to replace a health-care policy bearing the name of a Democratic president with a Republican-created substitute, progress can be made regarding critical policies in a bipartisan way.

There is, for example, strong support for making the cost of care transparent.

Costs have largely been hidden in our days of low co-pays, employer-provided plans dominated by third-party administrators and government programs.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a Medicaid patient ask me how much something costs,” Dr. Cameron Schaeffer, a Lexington-based pediatric urologist and proponent of free-market policies, said on KET’s recent Kentucky Tonight program.

Neither Obamacare nor the AHCA effectively connects patients with cost, which is critical to making America’s great health care affordable again.

One viewer’s email read by Kentucky Tonight host Renee Shaw noted, “a free market only works when there is competition.”

Both Schaeffer and fellow KET panelist Dr. Barbara Casper, an internist, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and Obamacare supporter, agreed providers should post their prices in a clear and understandable way.

Doing so would “help patients know what they’re getting into” and “would also allow for … more competition,” Casper said.

“I think we need to do everything we can to lower costs,” she added.

Whatever your political belief system, you will bear the burden or at least the consequences of higher health-care costs.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: Holding public records hostage

Amye BensenhaverBy Amye Bensenhaver, Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicated statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

While employed as an instructor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Journalism, former hostage Terry Anderson recounted his five-year battle with federal agencies to obtain copies of public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to the government’s efforts to secure his release from Hezbollah kidnappers during his nearly seven-year captivity.

Anderson described his bemusement when agency officials suggested he obtain signed releases from his former captors to expedite disclosure of the records he sought and protect his captors’ privacy. He shared his frustration when the records he received consisted almost entirely of newspaper articles and photos.

Although the content of the records ultimately disclosed to him was disappointing, Anderson’s protracted struggle illustrates, as the federal courts have observed, that “the value of information is partly a function of time.”

In the federal case recognizing this well-entrenched principle of records-access law, the U.S. Department of Justice postponed access to records requested under FOIA for up to 15 years.

The federal court decided that the delay was excessive, noting “Congress gave agencies 20 days, not years, to decide whether to comply with requests and notify the requesters.”

The court acknowledged that the Freedom of Information Act “doubtless poses practical difficulties for federal agencies,” but refused to “repeal it by a construction that vitiates any practical utility it may have.”

In other words, the court was unwilling to erode the principle of timely access to public records as an accommodation to the agency’s burden – real or imagined – and suggested that the agency present its concerns to Congress.

Kentucky’s public officials regularly complain about the three-day statutory deadline for responding to a request under the Open Records Act.

Lawmakers undoubtedly adopted a short turnaround for agency response in recognition of the fact that “the value of information is partly a function of time.”

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office in a recently issued decision admonished Louisville Metro Government for failing to explain the reasons for a 45-day delay in producing records responsive to a series of broadly worded requests relating to a complaint of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation filed by a Louisville Zoo employee.

The attorney general found that the facts on appeal supported the delay in producing the records beyond the three-day statutory deadline based on proof that just one of the multiple requests involved more than 23,000 records.

Delays in producing public records by state and local agencies in Kentucky may pale in comparison to delays at the federal level but are no less offensive to the principle that “the value of information is partly a function of time.”

Perhaps the solution to this and other problems lies in the statutory revision of the 40-year-old law.

Any such revision must be faithful to the law’s strongly worded statement of legislative policy favoring the public’s right to know but recognize the dramatic changes in the public-records landscape since the law’s enactment in 1976.

The newly created Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government proposes revising the commonwealth’s open records and meetings laws in a new report, “Shining the Light on Kentucky Sunshine Laws.” We identify deficiencies in the laws exposed by successive legal challenges, suggest where revision is needed and make recommendations for change.

Our goal is to preserve what is best in the open meetings and records laws but encourage lawmakers to close loopholes in the laws that are frequently exploited by state and local agencies at the expense of the public’s right to know. Doing so will ease the burden on public agencies, reduce the likelihood of legal challenges, preserve administrative and judicial resources and, above all, promote the clearly stated policy of open, transparent and accountable government.

Amye Bensenhaver is director of the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government at www.bipps.org. She wrote nearly 2,000 legal opinions regarding open records and meetings laws during a 25-year career as a Kentucky assistant attorney general. She can be reached at abensenhaver@freedomkentucky.com.

Anti-right-to-work zealots need a new act

BluegrassBeaconLogoEditor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon column is a weekly syndicates statewide newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.

Like comedian Kathy Griffin, who despicably held up a simulation of President Donald Trump’s head, leaders of the anti-right-to-work movement desperately need new material.

In fact, they need a brand-new act.

Following are some direct questions that should cause them to see the futility of a lawsuit they have filed opposing Kentucky’s new and effective right-to-work law:    

  • You claim the legal action is all about helping workers harmed by right-to-work. Can you name one single worker injured by this law?

If so, why isn’t their name on the lawsuit, instead of AFL-CIO chief Bill Londrigan and Teamsters 89 boss Fred Zuckerman?

How do these union heads even have standing, considering their claim is built on the premise that Kentucky’s right-to-work law harms workers?

Could they not get even one union dues-paying employee to step up and sign on the proverbial dotted line to take on this state’s governor and Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey instead of the general “affiliated unions and their members?”

Could it be that Gov. Matt Bevin was spot-on when he suggested, in his response to the lawsuit’s filing, that union bosses use these types of doomed-to-fail legal actions to “get re-elected to a job where you’re paid well?”

  • Why would you file a lawsuit to try and stop the growth in economic momentum that right-to-work is bringing to Kentucky?

Try as they may, it’s impossible for the plaintiffs and their political pals to deny this clear claim from Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard, who, at the ribbon-cutting celebrating arguably the largest industry announcement in Appalachia’s history, stated: “If Kentucky was not a right-to-work state, you wouldn’t have gotten on the list because it’s so important to us.”

Attempting to unravel a policy that will help create 550 jobs paying blue-collar workers $70,000 annually confirms this lawsuit isn’t about protecting workers.

Rather, it’s about forcing the 99 percent to indulge the 1 percent at the top, where union bosses who engineer this type of senseless opposition perch and, with knee-jerking consistency, condemn labor-freedom policies like right-to-work, which simply allow individuals to forego union membership or payment of dues without losing their jobs.

  • Since federal labor law allows states to pass right-to-work policies, why are you wasting your remaining members’ dues on a frivolous lawsuit doomed to fail?

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, charges the lawsuit is “an embarrassment” and makes claims that are “outlandish and similar to those rejected all over the country,” including by the Indiana Supreme Court after the Hoosier State passed its right-to-work law in 2012.

Perhaps these anti-right-to-work zealots believe they will get a favorable ruling just because they filed their inane litigation in a county overwhelmingly Democratic in registration and politics.

In pushing for the Kentucky Supreme Court to hear the case posthaste, they also have deluded themselves into believing a law passed by the duly-elected legislature will be overturned simply because most of the justices are registered Democrats with some ideological ax to grind.

But this isn’t a partisan issue, as indicated by many votes from both Democrat and Republican magistrates who supported local right-to-work ordinances in several counties before the statewide law passed in January.

To rule for the unions and upend Kentucky’s right-to-work law, the Supreme Court would have to totally invalidate the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause mandating that federal law preempts state policy.

It would “require a judge to dishonor their robe, and they’re not going to do that,” said Nemes, who previously served as chief of staff and counsel for retired Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.

Bevin has filed a motion to dismiss the legal challenge.

However, even if the courts don’t grant his request, this lawsuit will result in another devastating legal loss for labor-union bosses and a correspondingly large victory for job seekers, economic progress and individual liberty.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Two steps toward open government, one step back

COG2A Fayette circuit court dealt the University of Kentucky a substantial blow in an opinion issued on June 27 in which it declared that the university violated both the open records and open meetings laws in responding to the Lexington Herald-Leader’s records request and meetings complaint.

The university – whose track record in open records and meetings compliance is less than impressive – refused to release an audit conducted at its chief compliance officer’s direction following receipt of complaints concerning a then-recently acquired heart clinic in eastern Kentucky and a related PowerPoint presented to the board of trustees by outside counsel at a regularly scheduled dinner meeting held the night before its May 2016 business meeting.

The university characterized the audit as a preliminary record and withheld it under the open records exceptions for preliminary drafts and notes and preliminary memoranda in which opinions are expressed.

The problem? Those exceptions have no application to records that are adopted by an agency as part of its final action. And in this case, the audit was adopted as the basis for the university’s decision to refund payments made by the complainants in full.

The university also argued that the audit and PowerPoint were not subject to public inspection because they constituted attorney-client/work product privileged materials. These privileges are regularly invoked by the university as a fallback position for denying access to any record that passes through university counsel’s hands.

Not every record that agency counsel reviews is protected by the attorney-client/work product privilege. If, for example, counsel reviews the menu for a board dinner meeting, is the menu excluded from public inspection? Given the university’s propensity for invoking the privileges in the face of multiple open records requests, this scenario is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

The Fayette circuit court nipped such an absurd possibility in the bud.

Noting that the audit consisted of “systematic analyses of data” and not “confidential communications made for the purposed of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services,” the court determined that “the fact that the audit was ultimately provided to either the university’s General Counsel or [outside counsel] is not sufficient to cloak it with the attorney-client privilege.”

The disputed PowerPoint, the court continued, was presented at a regularly scheduled dinner meeting of the board that was open to the public. No member of the public attended owing to “some intent on the part of the university to mislead the public about the nature of the . . .‘dinner’ meeting, implying that it was merely a social event.”

Nevertheless, the court concluded, “the decision to receive the report in an open meeting reflects a complete lack of. . .an expectation” of confidentiality and “the privilege is absent.”

The court frowned on the university’s attempt to rewrite the open records and meetings laws by dismissing its noncompliance with the statutory requirement that it keep minutes of its public meetings and, if justified, invoke the appropriate exception for closed session discussions, as mere “technicalities.”

Citing a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion in which the state’s highest court declared that the “failure to comply with the strict letter of the law in conducting meetings of a public agency violates the public good,” the Fayette circuit court observed that “technical compliance with the Open Meetings Act is exactly what the law demands.”

Sadly, the Fayette circuit court did not adhere to Kentucky Court of Appeals binding legal precedent in resolving the question of access to outside counsel’s billing records.

The Court of Appeals held that not “each and every description of services rendered contained in billing statement prepared by non-government lawyers. . .falls under the attorney-client privilege” and required a “particularized demonstration that each description is privileged.”

Ignoring this precedent, the circuit court concluded that “the total amount paid [to outside counsel] is sufficient” to satisfy the public’s right to know, and placed the invoices under seal in the record. This is unfortunate.

But a reminder to the university, the precedent stands.

The university is no stranger to open records and meetings appeals of adverse rulings, and we suspect it will exhaust all appellate remedies before it finally accepts these well-entrenched principles of Kentucky’s sunshine laws.

Amye Bensenhaver, one of the foremost experts on Kentucky’s nationally recognized open records and open meetings laws, is director of the Bluegrass Institute’s Center for Open Government.

Pension crisis on Louisville’s 970 WGTK

BIPPS Logo_pickMembers of the Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team Dr. William Smith and Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters appeared on “The Rest of the News” with host Dr. Frank Simon. The Saturday interview on Louisville’s 970 WGTK addressed the looming pension crisis in the Commonwealth.

The pension crisis “threatens every aspect of our economy,” according to Waters, which is why the Bluegrass Institute has spent five years working on this issue. It is both a math problem and a policy problem.

Figuring out the cause of the $38 billion deficit is necessary to find a solution. As Waters pointed out, “For years, the politicians have used the pension system to curry political favor. And this has resulted in serious problems.” Ignoring the facts has lead policy makers to promise more benefit than the state can afford.

Dr. Smith expounded on the reason why the pension system has escalated this far: “Employees and employers fund their own benefits. All these systems have a full set of actuarially pre-funded benefits, but those benefits change over time.” Because of retroactively enhanced benefits, the pre-funded account is exhausted.

While the state did perform an audit on the pension system, they only went back to 2004. Dr. Smith for the Bluegrass Institute went back to the beginning of the system, 1958, in order to assess the situation.

Though the unfunded liability is daunting, the Bluegrass Institute believes Kentucky can turn its pension system around. Dr. Smith made it clear that the state cannot, and even should not, roll back the enhanced benefits, but should “stop the bleeding.” Moving forward, “assumptions need to be based on empirical data.” Benefits calculations must be grounded in reality.

Additionally, as the Bluegrass Institute has said for years, the system needs more transparency. While many Kentuckians receive a modest pension, there is corruption in the system. Some private entities crept onto the public pension payroll, such as the Commonwealth Credit Union.

Some of the solutions the Bluegrass Institute proposes include making the pension boards accountable for their behavior. The state needs to set up independent actuarial analyses to assess the system. Crucially, the benefit factors must be set at a level the state can actually fund.

Officials’ use of private devices to conduct public business: A serious threat to open government

BIPPS Logo_pick“BYOD,” or “Bring Your Own Device,” is an increasingly common corporate practice in which employees are permitted to conduct business on their personal computing devices. In the private sector, the practice is believed to increase productivity, enhance employee morale, and save on costs.

In the public sector, the same practice threatens the ability of citizens to hold agencies accountable through their records and meetings.

Relying on a legally unsupportable interpretation of the open records law advanced by Kentucky’s attorney general, some public officials in the state labor under the delusion that they can avoid scrutiny by conducting public business on their personal devices.

Until this question is resolved by the courts in a published opinion recognizing that the existing definition of the term “public record” extends to all communications concerning public business generated by public officials and employees —  whether transmitted on publicly issued or privately owned devices —  or the definition of “public record” is amended to avoid the attorney general’s preternaturally narrow interpretation, this grave threat to open government will persist.

In the context of records reflecting discussions of public business on private devices, Attorney General Jack Conway first articulated this reductive interpretation of the term “public records” on his final day in office. He directed the release of 15-ORD-226, two months after the statutorily mandated due date for his decision, obviating any possibility of internal staff discussion of the issue.

Quoting KRS 61.870(2), which states that “public record” means “documentation, regardless of physical form or characteristics, which is prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency,” he grossly oversimplified the issue by suggesting that because “cell phone communications, including calls or text messages, made using a private cell phone that is paid for with private funds, are not prepared by or in the possession of a public agency,” they are not “public records.”

In so doing, he ignored the expansive definition of the term “public record” and years of precedent that had guided his office’s interpretation of the law recognizing that  “In the end, it is the nature and purpose of the document, not the place where it is kept, that determines its status as a public record.”  00-ORD-207.

Such communications concerning public business may reside on private premises, or in this case,  private devices but the public official or employee who owns the device, “holds [the records] at the instance of and as custodian on the [agency’s] behalf.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear compounded this error in 16-ORD-262, concluding that communications exchanged by agency officials with agency counsel on private devices were not “possessed or used” by the agency.  The communications related to agency business and — although ultimately deemed not useful by agency counsel — were reviewed by counsel and therefore used by the agency.

Again, the attorney general referenced the applicable law but ignored it.

As noted, Kentucky’s courts have not yet addressed this issue, but courts in other jurisdictions have, applying a rule of constructive agency possession and concluding that “an agency always acts through its employees and officials. If one of them possesses what would otherwise be agency records, the records do not lose their agency character just because the official who possesses them” maintains them on a private device.

These courts recognize that the purpose of public access laws is not served if an official or employee “can deprive the citizens of their right to know what his department is up to by the simple expedient of maintaining his departmental emails on an account in another domain.”  It makes as much sense to say that the official “could deprive requestors of hard-copy documents by leaving them in a file at his daughter’s house and then claiming that they are under her control.”

Yet this is precisely what the Kentucky attorney general would have us believe.

There is no greater threat to the public’s right to know than this fallacious interpretation of the law. Followed to its logical conclusion, it eviscerates both the open records and meetings laws and extends to public officials and employees a license to conduct secretly all public business on private devices without fear of accountability.

Amye Bensenhaver, one of the foremost experts on Kentucky’s nationally recognized open records and open meetings laws, is director of the Bluegrass Institute’s Center for Open Government.

Bensenhaver, winner in 2016 of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center Award, spent 25 years as an assistant attorney general during which she wrote nearly 2,000 legal opinions forcing government entities to operate in the open when too many of them preferred to keep questionable – sometimes even corrupt – activities hidden from public view.

The folly of fiber in Forbes

In 2015, Google announced its intention to work with the city of Louisville to install Google Fiber in order to improve internet speeds for Louisvillians. Since the beginning, the process has been a mess of closed doors and bureaucracy.

Recently, Louisville’s problem was nationally recognized on Forbes’ website. Commentator Steve Pociask discusses the proposal to bring high-speed Internet in light of the city’s budget plans this week. Costing $5.4 million dollars, Pociask called the plan “an ill-conceived use of taxpayer funds.”

In the less-than-two years since the plans were announced for Fiber, technology has already changed, making Fiber less attractive and more outdated. Google is now working on wireless technology, according to Pociask.

To their detriment, though, Louisville continues to pursue the costly hardwired high-speed option without the support of Google. Pociask quotes a study that demonstrates a fiber network will not make money for a city. The result is higher costs for taxpayers without any monetary gain to the state.

As Pociask declares, “Government-run monopolies are bad investments for consumers and taxpayers.”

We couldn’t have said it better. In fact, we’ve made similar points in commenting numerous times on the secrecy surrounding contracts and the excessive government intervention of broadband boondoggles like KentuckyWired, the duplicative, wasteful and unnecessary statewide project.