AG declines EPB

Attorney General Andy Beshear …

we respectfully decline to take the actions requested by the Board and Mr. Taylor, and are returning your correspondence.”

 

Staff Report

According to documents obtained by the Barren County Progress, the Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear acknowledged receiving the Glasgow Electric Plant Board correspondence dated March 29, 2019. The request was made by the board because of a motion submitted by Chairman DT Froedge and supported by Marlin Witcher and former member Mark Biggers.

Froedge, Witcher and Biggers have repeatedly denied having any conversations outside the normal confines of permitted discussions and never any type consensus taken.   Froedge said, “I acknowledged having misspoke when referencing a statement to the Glasgow Daily Times reporter Melinda Overstreet yet it seems my mistake has been used as some means to accuse us of something that just did not happen.”  Froedge was referencing a statement in which he said he and the new board members would like items placed on the agenda that dealt with the replacement of board Attorney Jeff Herbert and Superintendent Billy Ray.

Rather than rally as history has shown this board to do in regard to other past references to meeting violations, business protocol and other issues, this time it seems some want Froedge, Witcher and Biggers to have been in violation.

The AG wrote in his response that he received communications from Melinda Overstreet, of the Glasgow Daily Times; an open meetings complaint by Ms. Overstreet to Mr. Jeff Harned, member of the Electric Plant Board; a motion by the Board requesting a ruling on whether Ms. Overstreet’s complaint constitutes a violation of the open meetings law; a request by John M. Taylor III, board member, for this office to investigate “a potential open meetings violation;” correspondence regarding the open records request and open meetings complaint.

Tag Taylor voted against having the AG investigate the charge denied by his fellow board members but when approved he submitted in writing his view that they did indeed violate the law.

The Progress has requested all email communications and found no communications between Witcher what-so-ever with any board members other than regular board announcements sent to him. Biggers had several, most challenging Superintendent Ray for sharing a private communication sent to him with Taylor, Harned and Herbert. Biggers said, “Clearly Superintendent Ray using his private email to send communications defaming fellow board members, our Mayor and even a former Mayor to selected board members is terribly wrong.”  He added, “These are the same guys accusing us of having back room meetings and making deals, and they are the ones operating in some stealth mode.”

It was Taylor who provided the BCP with the email from Ray’s private email while Harned and Ray chose not to comply with the BCP’s Open Record Request. Ray said he deletes all his personal emails and had nothing to share, while Harned said he had no communications with anyone he believed would not have already been shared.  Harned trusted Ray to have disclosed this email.  When asked about Ray sending the email to only him, Harned and Herbert, Taylor said the man was in a fight for his job and it is understandable.

Froedge, Witcher and Biggers refused to accept the offer for  training and Froedge said, “This would indicate we did something wrong and we certainly did not.”  The meetings following the GDT issue would indicate the men hadn’t discussed the issues because they didn’t agree on the items Froedge had placed on the agenda.

While Froedge and Witcher voted to remove Herbert and replace him, Biggers sided with Tag Taylor and Jeff Harned by voting to allow Herbert to give a 3-month notice announcing his retirement.  Witcher suggested allowing the new board attorney to work with Herbert for those three months.

Since the last meeting Biggers has resigned and stated in his resignation, “I realize that I voted incorrectly on the issue as to the retention of the current board counsel, and I regret my error.”

Mayor Harold MD Armstrong has not yet publicly announced a replacement for council consideration.

At this point, the opinion of the Attorney General is that the Kentucky Open Meetings Act does not provide the Attorney General with authority to investigate alleged violations of the Act, or to determine whether a complaint to a public agency, by itself, constitutes a violation of the Act. The Act only provides the Attorney General the statutory authority to issue decisions in response to open meetings appeals, KRS 61.846(2). “Your correspondence does not contain a perfected open meetings appeal. Such an appeal would include an open meetings complaint to a public agency stating the circumstances which constitute an alleged violation of the Act and what the public agency should do to remedy the alleged violation; a response from the presiding officer of the public agency; and an appeal of that response by the complainant to this office stating how the public agency failed to remedy the alleged violation.

The Open Meetings Act does not provide this office with the authority to issue a ruling on whether Ms. Overstreet’s complaint constitutes a violation of the open meetings law, nor does it grant the authority for this office to investigate “a potential open meetings violation.”

In conclusion the AG wrote, “As such, we respectfully decline to take the actions requested by the Board and Mr. Taylor, and are returning your correspondence”.

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