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City of Frankfort denial of records request
City Attorney's explanation for nonexistence of records

The City of Frankfort's recent response to a request for public records confirming compliance with state law -- requiring distribution of materials that explain open records/open meetings/records management duties to local officials -- raises concern about departing Attorney General Daniel Cameron's failure to discharge his own statutory duty. 

Frankfort City Clerk Chermie Maxwell notified the requester that there were "no records responsive" to her request for "copies of signed proof of receipts for certain open records and open meetings materials that the Mayor is required to distribute to elected and appointed officials and board members under KRS 65.055, along with the required certification to the AG that the materials have been distributed in accordance with the statute" from January 1, 2021 to December 15, 2023.

In a separate email, Frankfort city attorney Laura Milam offered the following explanation for the nonexistence of the requested records: 

"The City has discovered that to the best of anyone's knowledge, the AG's Office has not provided the Mayor with the information the Office is required to distribute under KRS 15.257 for some time."

Milam elaborated:

"The materials that must be given to local officials/ board members are those the Attorney General is required by law to provide to mayors under KRS 15.257.

"Under that statute, the AG is required to provide mayors with information explaining the procedural and substantive provisions of the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts within 90 days of any legislative amendments affecting the Acts, along with information provided to the AG by the KY Department of Libraries and Archives regarding record retention and management.

"KRS 65.055 requires mayors to distribute the information above within 60 days of receipt from the AG. For local officials/ members who have been elected/ appointed after the most recent distribution of the information, the mayor is required to give them this information within 60 days of the date their terms of office begin."

But the Attorney General, it appears, has failed to discharge his statutory duty to 

provide Frankfort's mayor, and perhaps others, with the information the Office is required to distribute under KRS 15.257.

Milam continued, "The [Frankfort] City Clerk confirmed with several other city clerks around the state that their mayors have not received the information for some time as well. This is inconsistent with the AG's past practice and its instructions to mayors on its website that since 2005, mayors have received a packet of materials from the Office of the Attorney General containing the materials to be distributed. It also explains why we have no recent receipts/ certifications as requested in the open records request."

Since receiving the open records request, "the [Frankfort] City Clerk has tried to contact the AG's Office several times to ask about the materials, but as of [December 21] has not received a response."

Milam emphasized that "the Mayor is only required to distribute information distributed to him directly by the AG, and the City has no recond of any recent distributions." Nevertheless, "the City has located what appears to be the correct updated materials on the AG's website and will ensure they are distributed to local officials/ board members. The City will also continue trying to contact the AG to ascertain why the Mayor has not received the information the AG is obligated to provide, which is ultimately a prerequisite to his ability to comply with his own distribution requirements."

In other words, the city will voluntarily step into the void created by Attorney General Cameron's dereliction. 

Assuming Frankfort was not inadvertently overlooked in the Attorney General's distribution of open records/open meetings/records management materials, Cameron and his staff have abdicated a critical duty aimed at promoting compliance with Kentucky's open government laws. 

This is no small matter for a state that has no other open records/open meetings training requirements, whose legislators have rejected past proposals for enhanced open records/open meetings training, and whose officials (some at least) believe that cultivated ignorance of the laws absolve them of wrongdoing when they violate the laws. 

Frankfort is pursuing an explanation for this apparent abdication of a statutory duty -- others are likely to follow. 

Kentuckians are entitled to an explanation and, if none exists, to the resumption of this statutory duty in Attorney General-elect Russell Coleman's administration.


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