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Happier times for Governor and Attorney General

Fox News Digital reports that on January 17 Attorney General Daniel Cameron issued an open records decision determining that Gov. Andy Beshear violated Kentucky's open records law by denying GOP spokesman Sean Southard's Dec. 2, 2022, request to the Governor’s office for correspondence between 13 identified officials from 2020 to the present.…

Specifically, Southard requested any and all correspondence related to school closures during COVID-19, including remote learning, nontraditional instruction, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Jefferson County Teachers Association.

Officials identified in Southard's request included Beshear, current and former members of his administration, Democratic Party Executive Director Sebastian Kitchen, state lawmakers, and Kentucky Education Association President Eddie Campbell.

On Dec. 9, Beshear partially denied Southard's request. The Governor characterized the request for "any and all correspondence" as overly broad, asserting that the description of the records sought was not adequate for "a reasonable person to ascertain the nature and scope of the request.'"

Beshear maintained that complying with the request "would require the retrieval and review of every other electronic or physical correspondence to or from the identified individuals over the span of more than three years to determine whether the correspondence contained one of the eight identified terms."

Cameron rejected the Governor's argument, concluding that Southard "did not request ‘any and all records.’ Rather, he requested ‘correspondence,’ the ordinary meaning of which is ‘letters or emails exchanged.'"

Southard, Cameron determined, "limited his request by persons, time frame, subject matter, and type of records."

Fox News Digital reports that Southard remarked on his victory,”The next step for the GOP is to go back to the governor and see if he will respect the ruling and release the request[ed] records . . . [or] invite a lawsuit by failing to comply."

Actually, the Governor -- like any party who receives an adverse open records decision from the Attorney General -- has 30 days from January 17 to decide whether he will appeal the decision or comply with the decision by producing the responsive records.

Only if the Governor takes no action after 30 days -- neither appeals the decision nor complies with the decision -- will he "invite a lawsuit" -- actually an action to enforce the Attorney General's unappealed decision.

A lawsuit clarifying the perennial question what constitutes an overbroad and unreasonably burdensome request would provide welcomed guidance. 

But Governor Andy Beshear has 30 days from January 17 to decide which course of action he will pursue. In the meantime, Southard must learn the virtue of patience. 


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