Morgantown violates Open Records - says Attorney General
A complaint filed by the editor of a local print newspaper has resulted in an Open Records violation for the City of Morgantown. The Open Records complaint stems from a December 13, 2013 request for records pertaining to bid proposals regarding the development of a website for the city. Yellowberri, a multi-media company in Bowling Green, was awarded the website contract in question at the December 2013 meeting of the Morgantown City Council.
Josh Hampton, Morgantown resident and co-owner of Yellowberri, said he doesn't foresee this causing a problem with the construction of the site.
"We are sorry to hear of any controversy surrounding this project, as it should be a positive thing for the community," said Hampton. "But anytime you try to do something positive there will bumps in the road but that's just life. We are continuing work on the site and anticipate an on-time delivery."
Morgantown Mayor Linda Keown, in a "timely written response" to the Open Records request indicated that she had searched some of the areas for information pertaining to the request. Mayor Keown cited several reasons why she would be unable to produce all relevant information at that time. According to Keown, the city was busy with audit and end-of-year business that "had to be done." The mayor also stated that "employees have had doctor appointments and vacation days, myself included, to catch up on at the end of the year." Mayor Keown stated that she also needed to spend the evenings with her ill mother in the nursing home. Nevertheless, Mayor Keown advised that all requested records would be provided no later than January 8, 2014.
The Open Records complaint was made to the office of the Kentucky Attorney General (OAG) on December 20, 2013. While acknowledging that the city had not "outright denied" the request, the complaint suggests the "reasons given for the outright delay until early 2014 are not in line with the Open Records Act." The Kentucky Attorney General agreed with that assessment.
In her official written response to the complaint, Mayor Keown restated her original reasons for not being able to provide all the materials at the time requested, indicating that she only has two office staff, and noting how busy the city is this time of year. The mayor said she gave sufficient notice as to the time it would take to deliver the records. Mayor Keown further stated that she hadn't had "a lot of time to get this request compiled along with my regular duties as mayor."
The requested records were provided January 8, 2014, as the mayor had indicated in writing.
However, the Attorney General found the city's response as deficient in that it failed to either provide the records within the specified time period or to provide statutory reasons for the delay in the delivery of the materials.
The ruling by the KY Attorney General states the following: "While a reasonable extension of time may have been justified on the facts presented, it was incumbent on the City, as it is on any public agency, 'to make proper provisions for the uninterrupted processing of open record requests.'"
The Open Records Decision further states that "when viewed in light of existing legal precedents ….. a procedural violation was committed."
Each party involved in this case has the right to appeal the decision.
The Open Records complaint against the city was filed by C. Josh Givens, who at the time was the editor of the Banner-Republican newspaper. He has since left that position and has filed to run for mayor of Morgantown.
Stoy by John W. Embry, Beech Tree News.