TO BE PUBLISHED
May 18, 1993
IN RE: Betty P. Catlett/Jerry Ralston
OPEN MEETINGS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by Ms. Betty P. Catlett of The Sebree Banner concerning her letter to the Superintendent of the Webster County Schools, Mr. Jerry Ralston. Ms. Catlett maintains that Mr. Ralston has not responded in writing to her written complaint.
In a letter to Mr. Ralston, dated April 22, 1993, Ms. Catlett questioned the legality of a decision made by the Board of Education in a closed session during a meeting held on April 12, 1993. Ms. Catlett cited KRS 61.815(1)(c) providing that "No final action may be taken at a closed session."
In her letter of appeal to the Attorney General, dated May 5, 1993, Ms. Catlett stated that as of the date of her letter she has received no reply from Mr. Ralston.
KRS 61.846(1) provides in part as follows relative to a complaint under the Open Meetings Act and the response required by the public agency:
The person shall submit a written complaint to the presiding officer of the public agency suspected of the violation of KRS 61.805 to 61.850. The complaint shall state the circumstances which constitute an alleged violation of KRS 61.805 to 61.850 and shall state what the public agency should do to remedy the alleged violation. The public agency shall determine within three (3) days, excepting Saturdays,
Sundays, and legal holidays, after the receipt of the complaint whether to remedy the alleged violation pursuant to the complaint and shall notify in writing the person making the complaint, within the three (3) day period, of its decision.
The Board of Education is obviously a public agency (KRS 61.805(1)(c)) and thus subject to the terms and provisions of the Open Meetings Act (KRS 61.805 to KRS 61.850).
The letter of complaint submitted by Ms. Catlett, dated April 22, 1993, was sufficient under KRS 61.846(1) to invoke and bring into play the terms and provisions of the Open Meetings Act.
While the school superintendent is not the presiding officer of the school board, against whom the complaint was made, failure to direct the letter to the presiding officer is a mere technicality which will not prohibit the invoking of the Open Meetings Act. The letter should have been directed to the chairman of the school board but the public official to whom it was directed had the responsibility of either forwarding it to the proper official or informing the complaining party as to whom it should have been sent. See KRS 61.872(4) of the Open Records Act relative to whom the request to inspect records should be directed, which provides:
If the person to whom the application is directed does not have custody or control
of the public record requested, such person shall so notify the applicant and shall furnish the name and location of the custodian of the public record, if such facts are known to him.
KRS 61.846(1) mandates that a school board respond in writing within three business days after receipt of the complaint to the person submitting the complaint against such a public agency. Failure to do so constitutes a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The school board should immediately respond in writing to Ms. Catlett relative to her complaint of April 22, 1993, addressed to Mr. Ralston.
For the information and consideration of both parties we are enclosing copies of OAG 81-135 and OAG 82-179 pertaining to the issue of closed sessions of disciplinary proceedings involving students.
Mr. Ralston or the school board may challenge this decision by filing an appeal with the appropriate circuit court within thirty days from the date of this decision. See KRS 61.846(4))a) and KRS 61.848.
Thomas R. Emerson
Assistant Attorney General
Copies of this decision
have been mailed to:
Ms. Betty P. Catlett
The Sebree Banner
P.O. Box 36
Sebree, Kentucky 42455
Mr. Jerry Ralston
Webster County Schools
Dixon, Kentucky 42409