The fight for government transparency in Kentucky never ends.
Recently an attempt to limit state spending transparency was introduced to the General Assembly. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on this last week. According to the article, currently, private companies who have at least 25 percent of their revenue come from public projects find themselves subject to Kentucky open records laws. Apparently the requests for information are too burdensome for private companies and the proposed legislation aims to relieve them of this responsibility…
Rep. Johnny Bell, the sponsor of HB 496, said he respects the public’s right to know. Bell said his bill is a response to a flurry of Open Records Act requests filed in the last five months against private companies in construction, highway building, engineering and architecture, who do much of their business with government. The companies are complaining about wasted time and legal fees, Bell said.
This is a very dangerous attitude toward taxpayer money. Here are a few things that need to be addressed in this discussion:
- Taxpayer money comes with strings attached whether it is spent by government or with private industry. Private companies take public money with this understanding. If you don’t want to be subject to open records laws, don’t take public money.
- The article states that quasi-government agencies like the Kentucky League of Cities would still be subject to existing transparency laws. Government cannot choose winners and losers. In this respect they would be choosing which recipients of taxpayer money are to be held accountable and which are not. That is unacceptable.
- The legal fees that are too burdensome only come into play in one scenario: The records request is challenged. Costly and burdensome legal fees can be avoided by simply turning over records related to taxpayer money.