Earlier today, the Kentucky Open Government Coalition sent a letter to Governor Andy Beshear, and Education and Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link, urging them to conduct a national search for two qualified successors to replace the retiring Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives Commissioner and State Archivist/Records Administrator.
We learned that vacancies in each position will soon exist at Wednesday’s meeting of the Electronic Records Work Group. Both positions are currently occupied by the same person — an ill-advised departure from longstanding practice in our view.
We acted quickly to request a national search for two qualified individuals, one to fill the Commissioner’s position and another to fill the State Archivist and Records Administrator’s position, to forestall a more expedient but less satisfactory process and outcome.
The full text of our letter to Governor Beshear follows:
“Dear Governor Beshear:
“The Kentucky Open Government Coalition* requests that the Commonwealth conduct a national search for two qualified individuals to fill the vacancies that will be created by the retirement of the current Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and State Archivist and Records Administrator.
“The Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation established in 2019 to enhance the public’s understanding of Kentucky’s open records and open meetings laws and to preserve the public’s existing rights under those laws. We fully appreciate the symbiotic relationship that exists between records access and records management laws. Three of our directors serve on the Archives and Records Advisory Committee.
“KRS 61.8715 recognizes that open records laws governing public records access, codified at KRS 61.870, et seq., are essentially related to records management laws, codified at KRS 171.410, et seq. Proper records management as a key to holding public officials accountable is a critical issue on the national stage. For these reasons, the Coalition believes that a search that extends beyond KDLA’s current staff for two candidates committed to KDLA’s records management program is imperative.
“The decision to fill the separate positions of Commissioner and State Archivist/Records Administrator with a single internal applicant was a departure from past practice and may
have been necessitated by budgetary constraints. Those budgetary constraints no longer impede Kentucky’s ability to search for, locate, and appoint a qualified State Archivist and Records Administrator and a qualified Commissioner with an equal commitment to KDLA’s libraries program and its public records program.
“It is our position that the records management program at KDLA has suffered from inattention and attrition since 2016. If requested, we can provide concrete evidence to substantiate our position.
“We therefore urge you to undertake a national search for a qualified candidate to fill the Commissioner’s position and for a separate qualified candidate to fill the State Archivists and Records Administrator’s position with the goal of restoring the efficiency, effectiveness, and professionalism of the public records program.
“At no time in our country’s history — save, perhaps, the Watergate Era — has the importance of records management as the key to public accountability been more self-evident. At no time has the need for a robust Kentucky public records management program been greater. Expedient solutions may not provide the best answers.
Jennifer P. Brown
Kentucky Open Government Coalition
* Because he is a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader covering the statehouse, Coalition co-director Austin Horn has recused himself from this matter.
C: Jamie Link, Secretary Education and Labor Cabinet