Magistrate wins court battle

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By Laura Hagan

 After a ruling by an Oldham County Circuit Court judge determining that Oldham County government violated the Open Records and Open Meetings Acts, fiscal court is ordered to pay about $5,000 in fines.

Scott Davis, an Oldham County magistrate, filed a petition last year in regards to a $100,000 anonymous donation made to the court and a September closed session meeting.

Davis claimed since the fiscal court is a public entity, the public had a right to know the donor’s identity. 

Since Davis filed the suit, Judge-Executive Duane Murner and La Grange Mayor Elsie Carter released the donor’s name. 

Davis still requests monetary damages, including attorney’s fees. 

According to Circuit Court Judge Karen Conrad’s ruling, “donations to a public institution are subject to disclosure according to the Cape Publications, Inc. vs. University of Louisville Foundation, Inc. case.” The Cape case states that anonymous donors’ identity would be protected if they expected their gift was made to a “private entity.”

“The court can find no legal basis for fiscal court’s refusal to provide the records pertaining to the donation at that point,” Conrad’s ruling said. 

In response to that petition, the court awarded a $2,500 fee to Davis. 

Members of Oldham County Fiscal Court, including Davis, met Sept. 16 in closed session to discuss personnel issues – the only agenda item listed. 

According to Conrad’s ruling, the subject matter went far and beyond the discussion of any personnel issues, and pertained to general personnel issues rather than a specific individual.

“...much more was discussed than just personnel issues,” she ruled, which violates the Open Meetings Act.

The court orders fiscal court to publish a record of discussion from the closed session meeting within 20 days. 

Davis is to receive $2,500 in costs and fees, as well as a $100 fine.

Other items discussed in the closed session have been declared voidable and fiscal court can argue the actions not be voided. 

Conrad ruled that fiscal court will schedule a hearing, “upon the request that it set aside the passage of any motions, ordinances, tax increases or votes taken by the (fiscal court) since Sept. 16.” 

This includes any motions, ordinances, etc. passed in regards to the rate increase, Oldham County Sewer Distrcict and Veolia Water Company.

E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com