Cameron’s recent open records decision hurts transparency

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Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 throughout a press convention on reacting to the grand jury’s findings on the Breonna Taylor capturing in Louisville.

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

In a 3 web page open records decision issued lately 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 gadgets.

Kentuckians have rejected these efforts time and again, practically as typically as our legislators hold making an attempt to sneak them in.

Before Clinton’s personal 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 goal of the doc, not the place the place it’s stored, that determines its standing as a public document.”

Conway ignored the precedent, figuring out that solely records within the possession of a public company have 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 at the moment “getting used” by the company.

Despite public outcry over Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server, Senator Damon Thayer launched laws that might expressly exclude records held by public staff on their personal gadgets from transparency legal guidelines. Thayer argued it merely codified Conway’s earlier decision, on the thinly veiled pretext that with out this alteration, Frankfort would have bother 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 go 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] reveals that state authorities wants extra transparency, not much less [and] would change Kentucky’s Open Records regulation concerning using personal emails or gadgets.”

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 express insurance policies that records of public enterprise carried out on personal gadgets should 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 shall be usually cited by public businesses to intestine the open document 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’s going to cease them from defaulting to personal cell telephones and e-mail accounts to keep away from public accountability by way of open records and conferences legal guidelines?

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

Amye Bensenhaver and Scott Horn are co-founders of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.

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