Danville City Commission has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a recent state attorney general’s ruling that the commission violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act by agreeing to purchase the BISCO building during an executive session.
The complaint, filed last week in Boyle Circuit Court, names The Advocate-Messenger as defendant.
The newspaper asked the attorney general’s office to rule whether actions taken by commissioners during a closed session of its July 23 meeting toward the purchase of the BISCO property should have been conducted in public.
In the complaint, the commission contends the AG’s conclusion that commissioners violated the law is a legal error.
It asks for an expedited hearing on the matter and asks that the decision be reversed and declared null and void.
The commission argues that the purpose of the executive session was the discussion of the possible purchase of property, which is allowed under the law if publicity about a possible purchase might affect the price of property.
The city announced its intentions to discuss property acquisition before it went into executive session, as the law requires, the lawsuit states.
Even though during the executive session all five commissioners indicated to City Manager Ron Scott that they supported the purchase of the building, no official vote to purchase the BISCO property occurred behind closed doors, the complaint maintains.
The final action to buy the property took place in open session on Aug. 13, three days after the city had submitted the winning bid of $1,237,500 to buy the building at auction.
Commissioners “could have freely voted not to purchase the building for the bid price” at that time, the lawsuit argues.
According to the lawsuit, the AG’s opinion misinterpreted the legal analysis of two state Court of Appeals rulings.
In one, the appellate court found that the city of Florence did not violate the open meetings law when it agreed in private discussions to settle a lawsuit in a zoning matter and then voted to approve the settlement in a later open meeting.
In the other, the court held that the Kenton County Library Board was not required to hold a public hearing before entering into a contract to buy property.
The Advocate’s attorneys, Jon Fleischaker and Caroline Pieroni of Louisville, have not yet responded to the complaint.
A response is required within 20 days, after which the case will be put on Judge Darren Peckler’s docket.