Commentary: Cameron’s decision regarding public officials’ private devices sets dangerous precedent

By Amye Bensenhaver and Scott Horn
Special to NKyTribune

Daniel Cameron has given the inexperienced mild for public officers to cover public data on their private devices. Remember the controversy round public data on Hillary Clinton’s private electronic mail server? The one utilized in half to get round public disclosure legal guidelines? That sort of factor isn’t any drawback in Cameron’s Kentucky.

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

Amye Bensenhaver

Kentuckians have rejected these efforts again and again, almost as usually as our legislators maintain attempting to sneak them in.

Before Clinton’s private electronic mail server controversy, Jack Conway, on his final day as Attorney General in 2015, issued a poorly reasoned open data 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 data within the possession of a public company had been open for public overview. Now, like Conway earlier than him, Cameron has narrowly outlined public data to exclude communications referring to public enterprise that aren’t “owned” or at present “getting used” by the company.

Despite public outcry over Clinton’s use of a private electronic mail server, Senator Damon Thayer launched laws that will expressly exclude data held by public staff on their private devices 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 in opposition to the proposal compelled Senate Republicans to shelve the unique invoice and cross 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 data legislation, declaring, “[It] reveals that state authorities wants extra transparency, not much less [and] would change Kentucky’s Open Records legislation regarding the usage of private emails or devices.”

Scott Horn

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 data 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 data and with norms adopted nationally and by different states. Most states, similar to the federal authorities, have express insurance policies that data of public enterprise performed on private devices should be turned over for transparency and record-keeping. Only in Kentucky are our officers attempting each avenue to maintain Kentuckians in the dead of night.

Cameron’s open data decision is a dangerous precedent for Kentucky — one which might be usually cited by public businesses to intestine the open report legislation and, by extension, the open conferences legislation.

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

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

Amye Bensenhaver is a retired assistant legal professional basic, open authorities advocate, and blogger for the University of Kentucky Scripps Howard First Amendment Center. Along with Jennifer P. Brown, former editor of the Kentucky New Era and writer of a web-based information web site in her hometown of Hopkinsville, she helped set up the Kentucky Open Government Coalition to supply a voice for all residents who help authorities transparency and accountability.

Scott Horn is a software program architect and co-director of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.

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