Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney walked out of a Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership board meeting this morning, stating that he felt the board may be violating open meetings laws by not conducting more of its business in the public’s eye.
A closed session for “voting directors only” was listed on the agenda for this morning’s EDP board of directors meeting. The agenda states the EDP is not a “public agency” to which the Kentucky Open Meetings Act applies. EDP President/CEO Jody Lassiter made a virtually identical statement in a recent interview with The Advocate-Messenger. Members of the public and non-executive staff must leave if board members need to discuss items of a confidential nature, Lassiter said.
Boyle Industrial Foundation President John Albright called the meeting to a close without asking for a motion.
McKinney then rose from his seat and asked for permission to speak.
“I think it’s a mistake to not subject ourselves to open meetings law,” the judge said. “Jody and I had a discussion, and we disagree, as lawyers always do.”
McKinney said he has talked to other attorneys and received mixed responses on whether the EDP board of directors must follow open meetings laws.
“The first thing people say is, ‘What are they hiding?’ the judge said.
Public agencies, like city and county governments, can go into executive session for legally approved reasons but must cast any votes in the public’s eye, McKinney reminded the group. The EDP receives some of its revenue from local government and thus should comply with open meetings laws, the judge said.
“I’ve got some lawyers doing some research for me,” McKinney said.
Due to ethical considerations, the judge refused to participate in the closed session but emphasized his choice was not out of “anger.”
“I’m going to say that I objected and that I didn’t stay for that closed meeting because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” McKinney said.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Fowler then asked if the closed session was in regards to a personnel matter.
Albright and Lassiter said “no” but did not elaborate as to the nature of the planned discussion.
As McKinney walked out of the room, Albright said, “Just voting members and staff, please.”
Albright and Lassiter were unavailable for additional comment as of press time.
For the purposes of open meetings state law defines a public agency as, among other things, an entity where the majority of its governing body is appointed by a public agency, and interagency bodies of two or more public agencies. The EDP partners include seven public agencies and two private agencies. The organization received $230,000 in local government funds in 2012.
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