For Immediate Release: Monday, March 26, 2018
Groups and media organizations across the political spectrum were alarmed when, as the Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government reported, House Bill 302 was changed to reclassify government business done on private devices and accounts as outside the reach of the open records law.
As a result, the independent nonpartisan Bluegrass Institute has joined with Forward Kentucky publisher Bruce Maples and other co-sponsoring groups on the right and left to issue the following joint statement.
Statement regarding House Bill 302
The following organizations oppose a proposed amendment to House Bill 302 redefining “public record” in Kentucky’s Open Records Act in a manner which gravely threatens open and accountable government.
The proposed amendment excludes from the current definition of what constitutes a public record “any electronic communications, including without limitation, calls, text messages, or electronic mail contained in, sent, or received using a private cell phone or other private electronic device that is paid for with private funds or contained in, sent, or received using a nongovernment electronic mail account.”
This proposal eviscerates the commonwealth’s open records and meetings laws by authorizing public officials and employees to avoid accountability and transparency by using their private electronic devices to communicate about the public’s business.
In recent years, email has become the preferred method of communication used by public officials and employees and represents a substantial amount of the public record memorializing the transaction of the public’s business.
If HB 302 is enacted, what has until now been a legally unsupportable and judicially untested interpretation of the Open Records Act in a decision wrongly issued by the Kentucky Attorney General will be codified into statute and allow public officials and employees to transact public business secretly and destroy any record of such transactions at will. Kentucky would have the dubious distinction of being one of the few states – if not the only state – codifying the right of a public official to conduct public business in secret.
For these reasons, the following organizations vigorously oppose passage of HB 302 with Committee Substitutes 1 and 2.
Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
The ACLU of Kentucky
Bluegrass Activist Alliance
United Kentucky Tea Party of Kentucky
Indivisible NKY District 4
Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots
For more information, please contact Amye Bensenhaver at email@example.com or 502.330.1816.