AG says ethics board violated state law

September 16, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

A June ethics inquiry into allegations against Danville City Commissioners Ryan Owens and Chester Kavanaugh and Mayor John W.D. Bowling violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act, the Attorney General's Office has ruled.

Danville Ethics Board Chairman Peter Bartuska said he believes it is a misunderstanding.

The complaint, filed by Owens' attorney Richard Clay of Danville, argued that the ethics board didn't publicize the hearing that "amounted to a trial of three members of the City Commission."

The Attorney General's Office ruled that Owens was an "interested party" and did not have to be notified, but the ethics board failed to notify its members in writing.

At the inquiry, Owens was issued three reprimands based on complaints from Danville Citizens for Good Government. The reprimands were based on the city's ethics code sections that address open and accessible government, principles of conduct and the city manager form of government.


Complaints against Bowling and Kavanaugh were dismissed because the ethics board said there wasn't enough evidence to support them.

Kentucky law requires governmental bodies to give written notification to their members and the media 24 hours before a special meeting.

Clay asked that the ethics board give Owens a new hearing, but the attorney general's opinion said it doesn't govern the ethics board, so it couldn't require them to do it. Bartuska said Monday that the board will meet to decide what to do, but that a meeting date hasn't been set.

"I don't feel we've done anything wrong," Bartuska said.

Board members were given an agenda, but Bartuska said he didn't include it in his response to the attorney general because he thought the complaint questioned whether Owens was given notification. The attorney general said the agenda given to board members was not sufficient because one of the items was listed as "new business," which does not satisfy the Open Meetings Act requirements for special meetings.

Clay said last week that the ruling means in essence that the reprimands against Owens do not apply because the meeting where they were issued did not legally occur.

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