News release: State House rejects attorney general’s ruling it violated open-meetings law, files suit against Bluegrass Institute
For Immediate Release: December 26, 2017
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) — The Kentucky House of Representatives has opted to waste more taxpayer money by filing a lawsuit against the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank, rather than acknowledge it violated the Commonwealth’s Open Meetings Act when it gathered behind closed doors last summer to discuss pension reform.
Today, attorney William Sharp of the Louisville firm Blackburn, Domene and Burchett, PLLC, and co-counsel Amye Bensenhaver, director of the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government, filed an answer to the House’s complaint in Franklin Circuit Court and initiated the formal discovery process by asking for records related to the Aug. 29 closed-door meeting, including written and audio records as well as any electronic or printed materials made available to that meeting’s attendees.
Legislators conducted the closed meeting one day after the release of a report by PFM Consulting offering controversial recommendations for reforming Kentucky’s ailing public-retirement systems.
House leaders filed the lawsuit against the Bluegrass Institute following the Kentucky Attorney General’s ruling supporting the Center for Open Government’s claims that none of the reasons offered by then-Speaker Jeff Hoover for preventing the public from attending justifies allowing public agencies to hold a closed meeting of a quorum of their members.
“While we were hopeful that the House would simply accept that it violated the Open Meetings Act, it, unfortunately, decided to waste more taxpayer money by suing the Bluegrass Institute in an attempt to justify excluding the public from its meetings,” Bensenhaver said. “That is precisely what the Open Meetings Act was designed to prevent, and we look forward to vigorously defending the public’s right to be present for such meetings.”
Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters said elected officials have no right to shut the people out of such discussions, even those involving politically difficult policies.
“Allowing this illegal closed-door meeting behind which the greatest threat to Kentucky’s economy was discussed to go unchallenged would establish a precedent of conducting the public’s business – including politically thorny and inconvenient issues – out of the purview of that very same public,” Bluegrass Institute president and CEO Jim Waters said. “Such meetings are not in citizens’ best interests and certainly don’t foster open, accountable and accessible government.”
For more information, contact Amye Bensenhaver at email@example.com or 502.330.1816 (cell).