"1000+ OPEN RECORDS AND OPEN MEETINGS DECISIONS"
This banner recently appeared on Attorney General Daniel Cameron's website, sandwiched between "Priorities" and "News."
If bean counting is a prerequisite to higher elective office, congratulations are due the candidate.
But Cameron's "1000+" bean count -- er, open records and meetings decisions -- ignores the immense harm he has done to the open records and open meetings law during his inauspicious term of office.
Putting aside the McDonald's-like self-promotion, Cameron's propensity for ignoring longstanding interpretation of Kentucky's open government laws -- and setting open government laws back by decades -- is nothing to celebrate.
A MENU OF ANTI-OPEN GOVERNMENT ENTREES TO CHOOSE FROM
A list of Cameron's affronts to open government would not be complete without the following.
• A 2021 open records decision declaring that public officials' electronic communications about their agency's public business -- conducted on private devices or accounts -- are not public records subject to the open records law.
• A 2022 open meetings decision declaring that a public agency can conduct a closed session without announcing in open session the reason for a closed session or the specific provision of KRS 61.810 authorizing the closed session, and can take final action in closed session, without violating the open meetings law.
• A 2023 open meetings decisions declaring that a discussion of public business by “written communications, such as emails,” between a quorum of the members of a public agency, is not subject to the open meetings law — because “that interpretation lacks textual support from the Act [and] lacks any basis in what the word ‘meeting’ means."
No worries, Cameron assures us, "agency-owned emails are ‘public records’ within the meaning of KRS 61.870(2) and are therefore subject to public inspection, unless an exception under KRS 61.878(1) applies." "Agency owned" and not statutorily excepted in the agency's view -- that leaves a negligible number of nonexempt public official email discussions on public devices and accounts that should have been conducted in an open, public meeting but are forever inaccessible to the public.
It's a safe bet that public officials intent on secretly conducting the public's business will take to their private devices and accounts for their discussions, thereby avoiding the open records law entirely under Cameron's 2021 open records decision.
This is the secretive public official super deluxe value meal -- especially for those officials who ravenously devour junk analysis that ignores decades of Attorneys General interpretation of the open records and open meetings law.
Oh, and don't ask Cameron for his recipe for secret government. As the Oldham County Circuit Court recently opined:
"The Attorney General overturns decades of decisions by both the Attorney General and Kentucky Courts. What is most troubling is this opinion [by the Attorney General] offers no rationale for this departure especially in light of the fact that no changes were made by the legislature to these provisions of the Open Meetings Act.”
PLENTY OF SECRET SIDES
Hungry for more? Here is a reminder that it was Cameron who:
• brought us the Bevin dream team of legal advisors who unsuccessfully fought the public's right of access to, for example, executive pardon records, the actuarial analysis of Bevin's pension reform plan, and records identifying investors in Braidy Industries;
• withdrew from litigation
aimed at clarifying his office's authority to conduct in camera review of disputed public records in open records appeals;
• abandoned any pretense of open records neutrality by filing a memorandum in support of the City of Shively Police Department in the department’s petition for review of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, Courier Journal, Inc. v Shively Police Department, favoring public access to certain law enforcement records in an open investigation; and
• thumbed his nose at court orders directing his own agency to conduct “an open, thorough, and good faith search of its records in response to an Open Records request" filed by American Oversight.
Once the indigestion has passed, Cameron may want to rethink his "1000+ open records and open meetings decisions." It's not a bean count he should be proud to advertise.