Monday, May 10, 2010

'Revenue streams' on agenda as budget looms; city defends refusal to provide copy of proposal

The Midway City Council will be dealing with money matters in the coming week. Tomorrow at noon, the Finance and City Property Committee will meet at City Hall "to discuss Revenue Streams, and review any updates on City Property," the city's official notice says.

Next Monday at 5:30 p.m., the full council is scheduled to give first reading to the ordinance that will establish the city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget was discussed at a meeting last month, and the formal first reading was to have been held at the regular meeting on May 3, but that meeting was canceled because a quorum was not expected.

City officials have declined to release a copy of the proposed budget to the Midway Messenger, and the Kentucky Press Association has appealed the denial to the state attorney general's office, whose decisions have the force of law in open-records and open meetings matters. The argument of KPA and the Messenger is that once a quorum of a public agency discusses a basic policy document such as a budget in a public meeting, the document should be considered a public record, just as proposed state and federal budgets are.

In its response to the appeal, the city cited previous attorney general's decisions holding that a proposed budget is a preliminary document until it is adopted, and thus exempt from disclosure. "If a proposed preliminary draft budget loses its exempt status ... between the time of its initial creation and the version that receives final approval upon passage by a governmental body, then the aforementioned statute becomes unclear and blurred and subject to a host of interpretations other than its plain meaning and will require deciding what exceptions will be made to the exemption," wrote the city's attorney, Phil Moloney of Lexington. "Surely this was not the legislative intent of the statute when the exemption was created."

The first point of Moloney's letter noted that KPA did not request a copy of the budget. The open-records law does not require appeals to be filed by someone who has been denied a record. To read the full, three-page letter in a scanned PDF, click here.

No comments: