Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Council Democrats acting illegally

Louisville, KY - It would appear that Louisville Metro Council Democrats are acting illegally in regards to open meetings laws. In my opinion the County Attorney's office just confirmed it.

It seems the Courier Journal did a story today on email exchanges between Council members but may have opened up a serious question about just how Council business is conducted behind the scenes.

Take the following for example:

"Assistant County Attorney Bill O'Brien cautioned council members early this month that an email he was copied on could have Open Meetings Law ramifications when policy issues are discussed and debated in phone conferences and in general emails or text.
"The court could consider this type of communication a non-public meeting in violation of OML," wrote O'Brien, who has since retired. "Please refrain from general council business in your group emails.""

What makes this so interesting is that we have been shown proof of Metro Council members presumably conducting business through personal email but it is very hard to prove to what extent since those same emails are not subject to open records laws.

I don't make that claim lightly but offer this as one example of proof.

Note that King was discussing official business through his official account but then abruptly requested that the conversation be moved to his personal account at which point we can find no further discussion since it is protected information.

But we must go even further with the logic of illegality by the Metro Council Democrats based on this from the County Attorney's office as well:

Assistant County Attorney Paul Guagliardo responded in a Sept. 18 letter that indicated the original email correspondence did not violate the law. King forward the findings to fellow council members last week.

Guagliardo said there is no definite test of when emails could violate the law and that "Every situation is fact-dependent," but outlined some scenarios for council members.

Council members could email each other to attend a University of Louisville football game and tailgate, for example, but then a quorum, or a majority of the council members, could not discuss a city matter that is set to come before them.

A quorum could email each other about the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa but could not email each other about boosting the budget for the health department to assist in purchasing medical gear in the event the virus reaches Louisville.

"Council members can probably communicate by email to confirm their availability for a special meeting," Guagliardo wrote. "We are less certain about email correspondence among a quorum of members to discuss language in a proposed ordinance."

The more council members who are included initially in the email about "public business" increases the likelihood that, if challenged, the communication could be determined to be in violation, the attorney wrote.

In a contradiction from his colleague within the County Attorney's office, Guagliardo declared that the emails were legal yet one glaring problem remains.

What is being discussed within the Metro Council Democratic caucus meetings?

Consider that a quorum is defined as a majority of Council members, and Democrats control the majority of the Council seats, then by definition their own caucus constitutes a quorum and any business discussed is subject to open meetings laws.

Of course the assumed answer by the Caucus will be that their meetings are open to the public but you must ask, how that is so?

They meet in a limited space environment that really precludes anyone attending outside of caucus members and their aides which greatly negates the possibility of any "open" meetings. This of course could be rectified by holding their Caucus meeting in the Metro Chamber itself which has plenty of room but it will not happen.

Of course since their quorum is required to be open to the public then any Republican Council member would have the same right to attend and that will not be allowed.

The ironic thing is the Republican Caucus can legally meet anytime they want as they cannot constitute a quorum based on their limited membership

We know that there are many closed door dealings and illegally used personal email accounts as evidenced above, but how much more is being done that we don't know about?

Thanks to the County Attorney's office we can now begin to demand answers.....

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