Group concerned about executive sessions

February 24, 2004

Dear Editor:

Like most people living in Danville, we are concerned about the significant amount of time the mayor and city commissioners spend in executive session. Executive sessions, according to the Kentucky Attorney General's Office, should be entered into only for the purposes of discussing real estate transactions where open discussion could have an effect on the value of real estate; personnel matters of a private or personal nature; or litigation where public disclosure could have an effect on the litigation or on the settlement of legal disputes. These sessions are off limits to the public and there are no minutes taken.

We thought a comparison was in order to see where Danville city officials' use of executive sessions stood in comparison to other jurisdictions. Looking at the data for all of 2003 we learned the percentage of city commission meetings in which time was spent in executive session in other Kentucky communities. Our findings revealed the following percentages of executive sessions:


* Louisville-Metro Commission, 0 percent.

* Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, 0 percent.

* Daviess County Fiscal Court, 14.8 percent.

* Owensboro City Commission, 31 percent.

* Frankfort City Commission, 45 percent.

* Danville City Commission, 85.71 percent.

An open government conducts its business in the clear view of its citizens. An open government governs in the full light of day enabling taxpayers and voters to hold their government accountable. When more than 5/6ths of our commission meetings are held all or in part in the privacy of executive session, our mayor and our commissioners are communicating how they feel about the constituents who put them in office.

State law is quite specific about exceptions to the open meeting rule and how these exceptions must be declared. We are also concerned that our City Commission has, on numerous occasions, entered into executive session by citing all the possible exceptions rather than the specific exception for which the session was being called. The Court of Appeals in Jefferson County Board of Education versus The Courier Journal found among other pertinent rulings that "notice given in open meeting preparatory to closed sessions which stated that discussion in closed sessions would deal with 'property and negotiations' did not comply with statute; reports or status briefings on labor negotiations were not proper topics of closed session; and statute requires that notice must come prior to every closed session in regular open meeting and must supply general nature of business to be considered and reason for secrecy."

According to 95 OMD 93: "It is a violation of the open meetings act if the public agency does not satisfy all three requirements set forth in KRS 61.815 (1) (a) including the citation of the statutory subsection relied upon to support closing the meeting. KRS 61.815 (1) (a) states: "Notice shall be given in regular open meeting of the general nature of the business to be discussed in closed session, the reason for the closed session and the specific provision of KRS 61.810 authorizing the closed session."

On behalf of all the citizens of Danville, we urge our mayor and city commissioners to end these secret sessions in favor of candid, honest, open discussion, free for all who care to know what their government is about.

Ron Jackson

Acting chairman

Danville Citizens for Good Government

Central Kentucky News Articles