AG Cameron open records decision greenlights transparency loophole

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has given the inexperienced mild for public officers to cover public records on their non-public units. Remember the controversy round public records on Hillary Clinton’s non-public e mail server? The one utilized in half to get round public disclosure legal guidelines? That sort of factor is not any drawback in Cameron’s Kentucky.

Scott Horn

In a three-page open records decision issued Monday that’s brief on evaluation and lengthy on obvious political cronyism, Cameron allowed the Department of Fish and Wildlife to withhold records exhibiting discussions of public enterprise by public officers and staff on their privately owned units.

Kentuckians have rejected these efforts time and again, almost as typically as our flesh pressers preserve making an attempt to sneak them in.

Before Clinton’s non-public e mail server controversy, Jack Conway, on his final day as Attorney General in 2015, issued a poorly reasoned open records decision with the identical devastating impact for Kentucky’s transparency legal guidelines as Cameron’s. Years of precedent had held that, “it’s the nature and function of the doc, not the place the place it’s stored, that determines its standing as a public report.”

Conway ignored the precedent, figuring out that solely records within the possession of a public company had been open for public overview. Now, like Conway earlier than him, Cameron has narrowly outlined public records to exclude communications regarding public enterprise that aren’t “owned” or presently “getting used” by the company.

Despite public outcry over Clinton’s use of a non-public e mail server, state Sen. Damon Thayer launched laws that may expressly exclude records held by public staff on their non-public units from transparency legal guidelines. Thayer argued it merely codified Conway’s earlier decision, on the thinly veiled pretext that with out this modification, Frankfort would have hassle attracting good legislators.

Apparently for Thayer, secret discussions are a prerequisite for conducting public enterprise. Outcry towards the proposal pressured Senate Republicans to shelve the unique invoice and move a considerably watered-down model.

To his credit score, Andy Beshear — as Attorney General — reversed Conway’s decision in 2019. He had harshly criticized Thayer’s failed modification to our open records regulation, declaring, “[It] exhibits that state authorities wants extra transparency, not much less [and] would change Kentucky’s Open Records regulation concerning using non-public emails or units.”

Amye Bensenhaver

The intra-office politics make this case particularly regarding — Cameron’s employees is advising the Fish and Wildlife Commission on its ongoing authorized battle with Beshear over the appointment of Rich Storm as Commissioner, and, maybe, on open records and conferences points together with this one.

Apart from serving as an apparent aide to crony politics, Cameron’s decision flies within the face of Kentucky’s definition of public records and with norms adopted nationally and by different states.

Most states, similar to the federal authorities, have specific insurance policies that records of public enterprise carried out on non-public units have to be turned over for transparency and record-keeping. Only in Kentucky are our officers making an attempt each avenue to maintain Kentuckians at midnight.

Cameron’s open records decision is a harmful precedent for Kentucky — one which might be recurrently cited by public businesses to intestine the open report regulation and, by extension, the open conferences regulation.

As public officers and staff more and more depend on e mail and textual content to conduct the general public’s enterprise, what is going to cease them from defaulting to non-public cell telephones and e mail accounts to keep away from public accountability by means of open records and conferences legal guidelines?

And why not? Attorney General Daniel Cameron has given them the inexperienced mild.

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