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County attorney voices ‘no respect’ for AG’s office

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By Shannon Brock

In the scope of discussion regarding an inquiry into the county’s Open Records Act violations, County Attorney Ruth Hollan expressed her distaste and lack of respect for the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.
“I have no respect for the attorney general’s office or their opinions,” Hollan said.
Open records and open meeting requests that are denied at the local level can be appealed to the attorney general. When a decision is issued from that office, it carries the weight of the law.
The discussion began when Magistrate Jerry Davis asked Judge-Executive Bill Karrer and Hollan why the fiscal court was not notified when the county is “dinged” for an open records violation.
“We know nothing about these and we’re not even told when we’re dinged,” Davis said.
“Why are we losing these?” Davis asked Hollan.
Hollan responded that she spends a lot of her time answering requests “for a certain individual.”
“He’ll tell you up front ... he doesn’t care what you say, he’s going to appeal,” Hollan said.
The most recent Attorney General decision regarding Spencer County was initiated by an appeal of Lawrence Trageser. The opinion was released on June 27 and resulted in a partial violation of the open records act.
In summary, the opinion states, “Although it afforded requester access to some responsive records, Spencer County Fiscal Court and Spencer County Clerk violated procedural and substantive provisions of the Open Records Act in responding to requests for records relating to procurement and use of automated office equipment and associated support services from 1990 to the present.”
Hollan contends that the specific requests haven’t been related to the Fiscal Court or its actions or else the magistrates would have been notified.
However, because the Fiscal Court oversees many of the offices mentioned, it often gets named in the decisions and opinions.
Hollan stated that if a record is requested that does not exist, it cannot be provided.
“If there’s something that doesn’t exist, it doesn’t exist,” Hollan said.
During Monday morning’s meeting, Hollan and Karrer said that some records that had been requested no longer existed because they had been disposed of by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives.

Purchase order process still causing questions
Magistrates Jerry Davis and Mike Moody voted against paying this month’s bills and making the transfers at Monday’s meeting because some items on the bills list were purchased with purchase orders that did not come before the Fiscal Court.
Davis and Moody initiated discussion several meetings ago, asserting that the court was not complying with its own administrative code, which Davis says requires the purchase orders to be approved by the Fiscal Court.
During the July 1 meeting, Judge-Executive Bill Karrer stated that as long as an item is included in the department’s budget, which is approved by the Fiscal Court, a second approval of the individual purchase orders is not needed.
“If money is approved in the budget, if it’s in a line item, you’ve given permission,” Karrer said.
At the July 15 meeting, Davis provided an email from the state local finance officer, Robert Brown, which said, “All expenditures/claims must be presented to the fiscal court for approval and it is usually the treasurer who submits these to the fiscal court.”
Karrer said the expenditures are presented to the Fiscal Court each month in the form of the list of bills and transfers, which must be approved by the court.
During Monday morning’s meeting, Hollan said she thought the magistrates were confusing terminology.
A purchase order is not the same as a claim, and neither is the same as a line item, she said.
However, Davis said that he thought the administrative code, as well as his emails from Brown were clear that the purchase orders needed to be approved by the Fiscal Court.
Davis also provided a letter from Brown, which attempted to clarify the process.
“A misconception that Spencer County is having is that the fiscal court has approved purchase orders when they approve the line items in the county budget and then approve the claims,” Brown wrote. “This assertion is not correct and should not be an acceptable means of purchasing and handling public funds ... Although a county’s budget has been approved by the fiscal court, this is entirely separate from the approval of purchase orders. Claims against the approved budget must still have fiscal court approval before they can be paid.”