(Editor’s Note: The $66,840 stated in this report spent by the City of Danville to fight the Open Meetings violation was as of May, 2017. With the appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, you can expect the amount of tax dollars used far exceeds the May verified amount.)
Back in mid-1996, the late KPA Past President Steve Lowery prophesied about the need for KPA to develop a Legal Defense Fund.
Steve’s idea was a good one but there’s one thing he claimed in promoting the idea to the Board that remains with me today. Whatever else he said, I don’t recall. But this I do:
“Public agencies will spend taxpayer dollars without care or concern because it’s not their money. They will continue spending tax dollars because they believe newspapers will eventually stop spending dollar for dollar and give up the fight. And then the public agency wins.”
Fast forward from that 1996 statement to 2012 through today.
The Advocate Messenger in Danville took on the City of Danville for an Open Meetings Law violation. The city was wrong but it was going to fight until The Advocate Messenger cried “Uncle” and stopped trying.
Fact is, The Advocate Messenger never stopped trying. Neither did the city.
Fact is, the city lost in an Attorney General’s decision. What the heck, it’s taxpayer dollars, let’s appeal the AG’s decision to the Circuit Court.
Twice the city appealed a circuit court decision that indicated the newspaper was correct, the city was wrong. It lost twice at the Circuit Court level.
So again, what the heck. It’s taxpayer dollars, let’s take it to the Court of Appeals.
The city lost. By an unanimous decision. No contest.
And then, what did the city do? It appealed the Court of Appeals decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Again what the heck. Since the city had wasted taxpayer dollars over the last few years in fighting this, it had to go ahead with the battle.
And got the same result. The city lost at the Supreme Court level. Unanimous decision. Not even close.
Danville residents should be outraged. Not because the city lost every argument at every level. But because it spent more than $66,000 to fight a losing battle. $66,840 in tax money that could have been put to better use by just admitting it violated the state’s Open Meetings Law. I would imagine that $66,000 could be put to really good use somewhere in the Boyle County seat.
I write all this to lead into a column John Nelson wrote about the fight The Advocate Messenger and City of Danville were involved in. John was executive editor of The Advocate Messenger when the newspaper filed a complaint that the city violated the Open Meetings Law.
Much like Steve Lowery was, John doesn’t give up easily, especially when it comes to public agencies violating an open government law. And kudos to Publishers Scott Schurz and Larry Hensley, along with Schurz Communications and Boone Newspapers, for hanging in there to pony up legal fees as the newspaper battled the wrong all the way.
Here, let John’s column tell you the story: John Nelson’s Column
And below is a link to The Advocate Messenger’s story on the Supreme Court ruling against the City of Danville