TO BE PUBLISHED
August 13, 1996
In re: Melinda Jones/City of Monticello
OPEN MEETINGS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by Melinda Jones, Publisher, The Outlook, as a result of the written response she received from Kenneth D. Catron, Mayor, City of Monticello.
In a letter to Mayor Catron, dated July 24, 1996, Ms. Jones complained of a closed meeting convened by your group on July 17, 1996, concerning fire protection. The group consisted of Monticello Mayor Kenneth Catron, Wayne County Judge/Executive Hallice Upchurch, the Local Empowerment Zone Coordinator, one city council member, the city fire chief, the county attorney, and an Empowerment Zone committee member who is also a volunteer firefighter. A reporter for The Outlook attempted to attend the meeting but was informed that it was not open to the public or the press.
While Ms. Jones understood that neither a quorum of the city council nor the fiscal court was present, the meeting in her opinion was a meeting of a public agency pursuant to KRS 61.805(2)(h). The subsection defines in part a public agency as any interagency body of two or more public agencies. Ms. Jones stated that an interagency body is formed when representatives of two or more public agencies gather to discuss issues involving public funds.
Mayor Catron responded to Ms. Jones in a letter dated July 25, 1996, and said in part that the meeting in question did not constitute a meeting of a public agency. No quorum of any public agency was present. He also stated the purpose of the meeting was to advise those persons in attendance relative to executive actions pursuant to existing budget appropriations-all of which have been publicly enacted, discussed and legally published in the Wayne County Outlook. The mayor also said that no new public agency had been created, the meeting was for educational purposes, no decisions were made, and no action was taken.
A letter of appeal was received from Ms. Jones on July 30, 1996. She requested that this office clarify the matter of the applicability of the Open Meetings Act to the situation with which she was concerned and reiterated her opinion that KRS 61.805(2)(h) makes the meeting in question a public meeting of public agencies.
A public meeting in part involves a quorum of the members of a public agency at which any public business is discussed or at which any action is taken by the agency. KRS 61.805(1) and KRS 61.810(1). There is no doubt that a meeting was held, that public business was discussed, and that all of the participants were public officers, officials, or employees. The question is whether the meeting of these people constituted a gathering of members of a public agency as every meeting of public officials does not result in a public meeting open to the public.
KRS 61.805(2) defines the term public agency and after reviewing the eight subsections of that definition, we conclude that the group involved is not a public agency under the Open Meetings Act. The group is not a state or local government board, commission, or authority. It is not a state or local legislative board, commission, or committee. It is not a county or city governing body, council, school district board, special district board, or municipal corporation. It is not a state or local government agency created by or pursuant to state or local statute, executive order, ordinance, resolution, or other legislative act. It is not a body created by or pursuant to state or local statute, executive order, ordinance, resolution, or other legislative act in the legislative or executive branch of government. It is not an entity where the majority of the governing body is appointed by a public agency, a member or employee of a public agency, a state or local officer, or any combination thereof. It is not a board, commission, committee, subcommittee, ad hoc committee, advisory committee, council, or agency established, created, and controlled by a public agency. Finally, it is not an interagency body of two or more public agencies.
Contrast the definition of public agency under the Open Meetings Act with the definition of public agency under KRS 61.870(1) of the Open Records Act which in subsection (a) provides that public agency means, Every state or local government officer.
We are not dealing with a situation where a quorum of the city council, the fiscal court, or any other public body is present at a gathering as that, generally, would create a situation where the provisions of the Open Meetings Act would mandate an open and public meeting. We are not dealing with a group or organization that was created by formal action of any public agency. Involved here is a gathering of public officials, legislative and executive, from various governmental entities, meeting voluntarily and not pursuant to any statute, ordinance, order, resolution, or any other kind of act of any public agency. In 94-OMD-148, copy enclosed, we decided that a meeting of various city and county officials and invited guests was an informal group which met on a periodic basis to improve communication and cooperation among various governmental entities. The group had no formal authorization, no formal membership, no formal agenda or minutes, it took no formal action, made no formal recommendations, and did not meet as the result of any action of any public agency.
It is, therefore, the decision of the Attorney General that a meeting of a group of public officials, officers, and employees from various governmental entities where none of those entities is represented by a quorum and where the group does not exist pursuant to statute, ordinance, order, resolution, or any act of any public agency does not constitute a meeting of a public agency governed by the terms and provisions of the Open Meetings Act.
A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it 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. Pursuant to KRS 61.846(5), the Attorney General must be notified of any action filed in the circuit court, but he shall not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding under the Open Meetings Act.
A. B. CHANDLER III
Thomas R. Emerson
Assistant Attorney General
Copies of this decision
have been submitted to:
Publisher, The Outlook
109 East Columbia Avenue
P.O. Box 432
Monticello, Kentucky 42633
Kenneth D. Catron
Mayor, City of Monticello
P.O. Box 550
Monticello, Kentucky 42633