UPDATE: Feb. 1, 8:47 p.m.
The EKU Board of Regents responded to a complaint Friday that stated they were violating Kentucky’s open meeting laws, said attorney Jon Fleischaker, who filed the complaint on behalf of the Kentucky Press Association.
In the response letter, Regents Chair Lewis Diaz disagreed with Fleischaker and asserted that no legal support existed for his claim that the Board was not providing a proper list of meeting times and places.
“We agree that Kentucky law does require that the specific time and place of the meeting must be designated,” Diaz said in the letter. “However, in making your assertion, I must assume that your position is that the specific time and location of a regular meeting must be established concurrently with the publication of the meeting date. If this is the case, we disagree. The statute is completely silent with respect to the required timeline for setting the time and location of a regular meeting in advanced of such meeting.”
Fleischaker, who helped write much of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act and works for law firm Kaplan Johnson Abate & Bird LLP, said he expects to file an appeal to Attorney General Andy Beshear sometime next week.
David Thompson, executive director of KPA, said his organization took action against an “obvious violation of the law.”
“It was just an obvious situation that we felt we needed to get ahold of and get out front and make a statement,” Thompson said.
The Eastern Progress will follow up with more details online and in the Feb. 8 print edition.
UPDATE: Jan. 30, 10 a.m.
Jon Fleischaker, an attorney and an author of Kentucky’s open meeting laws, filed a complaint Tuesday against the EKU Board of Regents over violations of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act. Fleischaker, who filed the complaint on the behalf of the Kentucky Press Association, confirmed the complaint to the Eastern Progress Tuesday afternoon.
“By only identifying the dates of upcoming meetings but not their locations or times, the Board is violating the Act,” Fleischaker wrote in the complaint. “We can think of no reason for the Board to take the half-measures that it has other than a deliberate attempt to make it harder for the public to attend its meetings. That is plainly contrary to the purpose (and letter) of the Act.”
Kentucky Revised Statutes 61.820 mandates all public agencies to hold meetings at specified times and places, as well as provide a schedule of regular meetings. However, the Board’s current schedule of meetings, as of Jan. 30, only provided time and place for the upcoming Feb. 22 meeting.
According to Board of Regents bylaws, the Board meets quarterly during the months of September, January, April and June. The Board has not posted the location and time of all meetings throughout the 2018-2019 academic year.
In the complaint, Fleischaker requested the Board amend its actions by immediately publishing the times and places of its upcoming meetings, including on the Board of Regents website. He accused the Board of trying to “hide the ball” from the public in order to prevent them from attending open meetings.
In an interview with the Progress, Fleischaker said meetings that weren’t given notice should be treated as special meetings. Even in that case, he said, the Board would have to post a proper schedule of regular meetings for any meeting to qualify as such. Special meetings require 24 hours of notice and must include an agenda, according to KRS 61.823.
“They’ve got additional requirements, so they’re probably violating the law in several different respects if they try to go forward with this,” Fleischaker said. “And that puts in play the idea that anything that they do is voidable; it can be voided by a court.”
Reflecting on the alleged violation, Fleischaker called it “silly.”
“It boggles my mind to suggest that they have any interest in this except to play games so that people won’t come,” Fleischaker said.
The Board has three days to respond to the complaint, according to KRS 61.846. If they do not comply, Fleischaker will file an appeal with Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, he said.
The Progress reached out to university officials and did not obtain comment by the time of publication.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Board has come under scrutiny for open meetings violations. Last April, Fleischaker helped the Eastern Progress file a complaint against the Board after it met in private session for five hours, discussing the “dismissal of individual employees.” Although the Board cited exceptions to KRS 61.810 (c) and (f), the Progress’s complaint was upheld in a May 3 opinion by Attorney General Andy Beshear.