Lack of appraisal a violation of Open Records, says AG
Butler County Fiscal Court has once again found itself on the wrong end of an Open Records decision by the office of the Kentucky Attorney General. In responding to a complaint by Robert D. Cron, the Attorney General summarized that "Butler County Fiscal Court violated substantive requirements of the Open Records Act by failing to properly respond to request for records relating to appraisal on real property prior to purchase."
The property in question was a joint venture by Butler County Fiscal Court and the City of Morgantown to purchase approximately 22 acres of industrial property from Osco Bratcher on KY 70 west (Rochester Road) near the William Natcher Parkway. The total purchase price was $500,000; $250,000 for each entity.
Mr. Cron presented an Open Records request to the county in August asking for an appraisal of the property. Butler County Attorney Richard "Dick" Deye responded to Cron's request stating “there are no documents for the appraisal of the land bought from Mr. Bratcher, in partnership with the City of Morgantown and Butler County, in the office of the Butler County Judge/Executive.”
This response from Deye prompted Cron to appeal to the Attorney General.
According to the opinion of the Attorney General, "Mr. Cron focused on the fiscal court’s failure to comply with KRS 61.872(4). That statute provides that when the agency to which an open records request is directed “does not have custody or control of the public record requested,” the agency “shall notify the applicant and shall furnish the name and location of the agency’s public records.”
The Attorney General opined that the county's response was "substantively deficient."
For his part, Mr. Deye could not state whether the property had been appraised, only that the county did not have a copy of an appraisal. Deye did not question the applicability of the the law in this matter.
State law indicates that county governments are required to obtain an appraisal unless the purchase price of the property is less than $40,000.
Butler County Judge-Executive David Fields said any oversight in purchasing this important industrial property was just that - an oversight - not an intentional attempt to do anything wrong.
"We were following every step we thought we had to follow in cooperation with the City of Morgantown in purchasing this property," said Fields. "It was an out-in-the-open process that was approved by both Fiscal Court and City Council. If we missed a step in the process then it was simply a mistake," added Fields.
The city also received an open record request from Cron. According to Mayor Linda Keown, the city is not required to have an appraisal.
"We did everything our attorney told us to do when making the purchase," said Keown.