KPA petitions court to file amicus brief in support of Louisville’s Government Oversight Committee

The Kentucky Press Association has filed a motion in Jefferson Circuit Court’s Seventh District, seeking permission to file an amicus brief in support of the Louisville Metro Council’s Government Oversight Committee.

Metro Council chair Brent Ackerson issued a press release Thursday, praising the involvement of a transparency expert rebuffing Administration efforts to evade public testimony. He was referring to KPA general counsels Michael Abate, Jon Fleischaker and Casey Hinkle who prepared and filed the brief in circuit court earlier Thursday.

Ackerson made reference in his release to them as the “victorious attorneys” who a day earlier had won release of the City of Louisville’s failed bid to land Amazon’s second headquarters. See related story in this week’s On Second Thought.

“An Amicus Curiae brief written by yesterday’s victorious attorneys was filed today in the Metro Government [Administration] v. Louisville Metro Council action. That brief cites several reasons why the testimony of key public officials should not be able to hide from those who hired them – the citizens of Louisville. Chief among the reasons outlined in the brief is the simple truth that facts are not protected from transparency and accountability under the Open Records Act as the Administration claims,” read Ackerson’s release.

“The GOA is simply seeking the facts – facts that were created by the actions and inaction by individuals who are not only paid with taxpayer dollars, act on behalf of the public with the total control of the use of force and police powers, but who are also are subject to future public support via pension obligations. Government officials should answer questions about what they choose to do and choose not to do for the public in public. That is the whole point of oversight, and oversight is critical to a functioning democracy.”

The petition to file the brief by KPA states, “The Louisville Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee is seeking to perform a core government function: oversight of public officials’ response to months-long public protests over the death of Breonna Taylor, which have drawn international attention to the City.

“The Plaintiff in this case—Metro Government—claims that its witnesses can only provide such testimony in a closed hearing conducted out of the public’s view. Their argument relies on a statute providing that any testimony “subject to” any of the exceptions in the Open Meetings Act should take place behind closed doors unless the witness chooses to testify publicly. The fundamental problem with this argument is that none of the Open Meetings Act’s exemptions would permit the Metro Council to hear this testimony behind closed doors even if it wanted to.”

The motion filed by the KPA general counsel moves the Court for leave to submit the enclosed brief and participate in oral argument as amicus curiae. In support of this motion, the KPA states as follows:

1. The Kentucky Press Association is the leading trade association for print and online journalists in Kentucky. KPA’s membership includes approximately 170 different newspapers across the state. KPA’s members are committed to excellence in the gathering, dissemination, and facilitation of news and information through multiple platforms.

2. KPA’s members regularly cover open meetings of public agencies held across the Commonwealth. Thus, they routinely deal with questions arising under the Open Meetings Act. As the Supreme Court of Kentucky has acknowledged, the press “occupies a unique position as the eyes and ears of the public, a status authorizing it to demand access as the public’s representative whenever the public’s right to know outweighs the litigants’ lawfully protected rights.” Courier-Journal & Louisville Times Co. v. Peers, 747 S.W.2d 125, 128 (Ky. 1988). In this watchdog role, KPA members regularly raise, and litigate, important questions arising under the Open Meetings Act before the Attorney General and in courts across the Commonwealth.

3. The KPA respectfully requests that this Court grant it leave to file the enclosed amicus brief, which explains why the Metro Council correctly concluded that the testimony sought by the committee could not have been conducted in closed session.

4. Undersigned counsel, who have considerable experience in litigating cases under the Open Meetings Act,1 also request permission to participate at oral argument to advocate on behalf of the public’s right to know how its elected and appointed leaders are carrying out the public’s business.

The attorneys expect to hear on Monday if the amicus motion will be accepted by Jefferson Circuit Court Seventh District.

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