March 4 Fiscal Court Agenda

Daviess Fiscal Court has a short agenda for its 4 p.m. on March 4  at the Daviess County Courthouse.

Fiscal Court members are scheduled to take the following actions:

• Hear a presentation of the “Keep It Real — People’s Choice Award” by Donna Wiesenhahn, director of Bluegrass Regional Prevention in Lexington to Citizens Help All People Succeed regarding the production of an underage drinking video.

• Consider a lease agreement with the Diocese of Owensboro for the use of the ball diamond facilities on the St. William Catholic Church property in Knottsville from March 1 through Aug. 15.

• Consider on first reading an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with the city and the Industrial Development Authority for the acquisition of property, design and construction of a downtown convention/events center. (Votes aren’t taken on first readings of ordinances.)

• Consider the reappointment of Lisa Jones to the Medical Control Authority, effective March 1 for a term ending March 1, 2014.

“You just throw it away”

Snow was on county officials’ minds Tuesday as the Daviess Fiscal Court meeting began to wrap up.
Judge-Executive Reid Haire turned to Treasurer Jim Hendrix and asked how much the county had already spent on road salt this winter.

“$65,000 so far, out of a $70,000 budget,” Hendrix reported.

“The bad thing is,” Haire said, “you just throw it away. Once you use it, it’s gone.”

Owensboro City Commission, Daviess Fiscal Court to hold work sessions

 The Owensboro City Commission will hold its first work session of the year and the first under new Mayor Ron Payne on Tuesday. 

The work session begins at noon in Room 406 at Owensboro City Hall, 101 E. Fourth St. 

Here’s the agenda – 

1.        Call to Order – Mayor Ron Payne

2.         Private Development Policy – City Engineer Joe Schepers (Presentation)

3.        Towne Square Mall Connector – City Attorney Ed Ray

4.         911 Training Center & Consolidated Dispatch – Operations Manager Tony Cecil and Police Chief Glenn Skeens

5.        City Projects Update & Schedule – City Manager Bill Parrish

6.        Adjournment – Mayor Ron Payne

Daviess Fiscal Court will also hold a work session Tuesday “to discuss a downtown development insurance premium tax proposal.”

That meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in the second-floor courtroom at the Daviess County Courthouse, 212 St. Ann St. 

A closer look at the AG’s open meetings ruling

On Monday, the Messenger-Inquirer learned that Attorney General Jack Conway’s office had ruled that discussions held by the city and county that included the decision to submit an offer for the Executive Inn Rivermont were not in violation of the state open meetings law.

The newspaper filed a complaint with the city and the county after comments by Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves on July 18 that the decision had been made to submit the offer, and what that offer should be, “in consultation with me and the elected officials through various individual conversations.”

Under state law, public bodies can only take action at an official meeting, and it did not appear that a meeting had been called to reach the decision to submit a purchase offer on the hotel. City and county officials argued that the offer was preliminary, and was therefore not an official action that would have required calling a formal meeting to take.

In his written opinion mailed last week, Attorney James Ringo with the attorney general’s office said he was “unable to resolve the question of whether final action was taken” because both the city and the county refuted Reeves’s statement, which was made to myself and reporter Jim Mayse and can be heard here.

Without resolving that question, the core of the complaint by the Messenger-Inquirer remains unresolved.

Ringo argued that public bodies have the right to hold informal discussions to educate themselves about issues, which was not in dispute. Ringo also wrote that “because there is no evidence in the record” that members of both commissions engaged in a series of unofficial, smaller meetings, or conversations, to reach their decision, there is no violation.

Ringo failed to address the newspaper’s contention that the law was broken when the city commission and fiscal court decided to make an offer on the Executive Inn Rivermont without calling an official meeting to make that decision. Ringo instead focused solely on the discussions that led up to that decision, without addressing the decision itself.

Ringo did reaffirm that using smaller, unofficial meetings to discuss public business “should constitute the rare exception to the general rule of public discussion.”

Hopefully this process has helped all involved become more aware of what the open meetings law requires and why it is important so such disputes can be avoided in the future.

Attorney General’s office sends out open meetings, records reminder to local governments

Attorney General Jack Conway announced Wednesday that his office will be sending an update on the state’s open meeting and open records laws to more than 1,400 public officials.

The update will include a new provision approved by the General Assembly this spring that will allow public agencies to notify the public and press about special meetings by e-mail. That change could allow the public to learn about special meetings more quickly and efficiently and make it easier for those agencies to provide appropriate notice.

Public officials who receive the update  are required by law to pass it along to “all elected and appointed officials and members within the county, city, school district or university they represent,” the attorney general’s office noted.

In its press release, Conway’s office notes that the update “is aimed at enhancing public officials’ understanding of the law and ensuring open government.”

In other open meetings law news, the Messenger-Inquirer has received notice that Conway’s office has started its investigation into a complaint by the newspaper against the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

The complaint alleged that both governments arrived at the decision to submit an offer for the Executive Inn Rivermont and what purchase price to offer without calling a special meeting of elected officials. The city and county both denied the complaint, which prompted the review by Conway’s office.

The attorney general’s office received the Messenger-Inquirer’s appeal on July 23 and has 10 business days to issue an opinion about whether the two governments broke the open meetings law.

Update…

Joe Biesk with the Associated Press has the full story on the open meetings law changes here or here.

City, county reject Messenger-Inquirer’s open meetings law complaint

The city and county have rejected a complaint by the Messenger-Inquirer filed last week accusing the two government bodies of breaking Kentucky’s open meetings law with their recent decision to try to buy the Executive Inn Rivermont.

The gist of the response from the city and county is that neither body took “final action” in agreeing on a price to offer for the closed, 600-room hotel and submitting what they call a preliminary purchase offer to hotel owners Marshall Investments.

That decision was reached not at an official meeting but during several conversations among elected officials, according to Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves and Daviess County Judge-Executive Reid Haire. However, since the city and county don’t view the decision as a” final action,” they maintain that no official meeting was required.

To learn more about what the open meetings law says and when violations occur, check out my earlier post here.

The newspaper submitted an appeal of the rejected complaint on Wednesday to state Attorney General Jack Conway’s office, which will make a ruling in 10 business days.

Read the full story in the Messenger-Inquirer.

Open records, closed meetings – What’s all the fuss?

In his foreword to the “Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records Laws” handbook that sits on the desks of most reporters around the state, former Legislative Research Commission Director Vic Hellard Jr. explains that the state passed an Open Meetings law 34 years ago “to provide the people with greater access to government.”

The law gives the average citizen and the press the opportunity to see how decisions are made by the governments that represent them, along with granting those public bodies protections when deciding certain potentially sensitive issues such as personnel matters and property purchases.

Those two competing rights were at the root of a complaint filed by the Messenger-Inquirer last week over a decision by the city of Owensboro and Daviess Fiscal Court.

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