Meade County Judge/Executive violates Open Records Act

The Office of the Attorney General issued a ruling that the “Office of the Meade County Judge/Executive (“OCJE”) violated the Open Records Act (“the Act”) by failing to respond to some portions of a request for records, failing to notify the requester that it was not the custodian of some records, and omitting pages from meeting minutes without explanation.”

According to the five-page ruling issued by Attorney General Daniel Cameron, attorney Charity Bird, who represents the Lincoln Trail Grain Growers Association, appealed to the AG’s office for a ruling on the question of whether the Judge’s office violated the Act when her law firm made an open records request on Dec. 17, 2019 for records pertaining to the Meade County River Port. The farmers Bird represents are currently involved in a lawsuit claiming, in part, that Meade County officials have violated open meeting laws, the Kentucky Constitution and also caused irreparable harm to the group.

One violation revolves around the fact that some of the files requested were not under the custody of the Judge’s office. The AG concluded that, though a public agency does not have to produce records held by another agency, in this case the Meade County-Brandenburg Industrial Development Authority, “it was OCJE’s duty to inform the requester in clear terms that it did not have the records.” The AG went on to state that in failing to clearly inform Bird that they were not the custodian of River Port Authority or Industrial Development Authority records, the Judge’s office violated the Act.

The AG addressed four other specific claims of violation of the Act. The first was a claim that the Judge’s office failed to provide all minutes of meetings involving the Meade County River Port. Cameron’s office ruled that violations occurred when the OCJE failed to notify the attorney that some of the records didn’t exist yet in their official response. Also, “all minutes” were requested, but Judge Gerry Lynn’s office provided copies of some minutes that Bird argued were obviously missing pages. Cameron ruled that when “the OCJE omitted pages with no legal or factual explanation, OCJE failed to meet its burden and violated the Act.”

Another violation of the Act pertains to a claim by Bird that the OCJE did not produce copies of all emails requested because she has seen an email that exists that was not produced by Lynn’s office. The AG ruled that the OCJE did not deny the fact that such records existed in their official response, and therefore, prevented Bird from being able to make a prima facie case that emails she requested, that weren’t provided by the Judge’s office, did in fact exist. As a result, it was ruled that “because it failed to affirmatively deny the existence of responsive records, OCJE violated the Act by failing to fully respond to the request.”

A link to the original copy of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s ruling on Judge Lynn and his office’s violations of the Kentucky Open Records Act is provided below for anyone wishing to read the document in its entirety.

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