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State AG opinion says Marshall Co. violated Open Meetings Act

Damage photo two ryland.jpg
Ryland Barton
/
Damage near Sherwood Shores in Marshall County.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron released an opinion Monday stating the Marshall County Fiscal Court violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act by not announcing an emergency meeting that occurred in the wake of December’s tornado outbreak.

In the opinion, the attorney general said the Marshall County Fiscal Court violated the act twice in regards to its Dec. 16 meeting. The first violation was when it failed to respond to a complaint from The Lake News about the December meeting within three business days. The second violation was from failing to make an effort to notify the media under emergency circumstances.

Loyd Ford, the editor, publisher and owner of The Lake News, filed the complaint with the state attorney general’s office.

“Since I cover the meetings all the time, they send me notifications of all the other regular meetings and special call meetings, but they didn’t send me a meeting notice about the Dec. 16 meeting,” Ford told WKMS. “And then when I questioned them about it in an email, I was told they did not have to notify me of an emergency called meeting, which is untrue.”

Ford said he learned about the meeting while attending the regular fiscal court meeting that occurred after the Dec. 16 meeting.

“I realized that they had already made arrangements with a number of different firms to do the waste, the debris removal,” Ford said. “Also, one of the firms was hired to act as an agent between (the Marshall County Fiscal Court) and (the Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

The opinion goes on to confirm the Marshall County Fiscal Court argued they did not have to notify about the meeting since it was an “emergency meeting” to approve contracts related to the state-declared emergency.

The state attorney general’s office said Marshall County Fiscal Court was incorrect in its reasoning, underscoring that government organizations have to make a “reasonable effort” to notify media organizations which have requested to be notified about any meetings.

Marshall County Judge Executive Kevin Neal did not return requests for comment after multiple attempts. Marshall County County Attorney Jason Darnall said he could not comment since Marshall County was involved in the opinion.

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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