By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times
The lawyers are not arguing over how an agreement was reached, but not all members of the Barren County Fiscal Court have the same view of a decision to drop a case in the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
On Jan. 15, a week before a Jan. 22 deadline for the fiscal court to file a brief or make a motion to dismiss an appeal in an open records lawsuit against the Glasgow Daily Times, members of the Barren County Fiscal Court entered into closed session during a regular meeting to discuss personnel matters and pending litigation. According to Kentucky Revised Statute, those are two areas in which government agencies can enter closed session for discussion. However, KRS 61.815 says that “no final action may be taken at a closed session.”
At the end of the Jan. 15 closed session, the court went back into open session and Judge-Executive Davie Greer announced that there would be no action as a result of the closed session. In the days that followed, several magistrates stated that during the closed session, a letter was read from Jim Deckard, the court’s legal representation for the open records case. Magistrates signed the letter if they agreed to pursue dismissing the appeal they started in August. It is unclear whether the letter stated an agreement to dismiss the appeal, or an agreement to pursue settlement negotiations.
The letter is not available as an open record because it falls under attorney-client privilege, according to both Deckard and fiscal court clerk Sherry Jones.
One week later, Jan. 22, Deckard and Glasgow Daily Times attorney Jeremy Rogers filed a joint motion to dismiss the case from the Kentucky Court of Appeals. On Feb. 5, the appeal was officially dismissed and the case returned to Barren Circuit Court under Judge Phil Patton. On Feb. 7, Deckard and Rogers entered a joint motion to dismiss the case, and Patton signed it. No vote to drop the appeal or dismiss the case was taken in open fiscal court before the case’s dismissal.
According to Deckard, the agreement made in written form by magistrates in the Jan. 15 closed session was within the legal bounds of actions an agency can take during closed session. The letter was a form of communication between attorney and client, Deckard said, and it was necessary to set parameters for settlement.
“It is naive and uninformed to argue that settlement discussion must take place in an open session,” Deckard said. “That is completely at odds with Kentucky law, both statutes and decisions of the Kentucky Supreme Court.”
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