The State Journal on Monday filed a formal complaint that the Frankfort City Commission violated Kentucky's Open Meetings Act prior to City Manager Keith Parker's termination.
In a letter to Mayor Bill May, State Journal Publisher Steve Stewart said at least three commission members violated the so-called "rolling quorum" prohibition on conducting government business in individual phone calls or other communication in order to avoid having a quorum and being bound by the open meetings law.
"After my commentary in the weekend edition criticizing elected officials for the secretive process used to fire Parker, several experts on transparency laws in Kentucky reached out to tell me that the commission's actions had indeed violated not just the spirit of the law but the letter of it," Stewart said. "Upon review of the appropriate statute, we decided to formally assert a violation."
The city has three business days to respond to the newspaper's complaint.
In his letter, Stewart asked the commission to acknowledge the violation and agree to conduct a discussion of Parker’s employment and the reasons for his dismissal at a properly noticed public meeting. The State Journal also requested that the commission schedule mandatory open meetings training for all board members.
Stewart said the violation was confirmed when City Commissioner Scott Tippett, in a phone call days before the commission meeting where Parker was fired, told the city manager that the mayor "had three votes" to fire him.
Parker's employment status had not been discussed in a prior open or closed session of the board, according to Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge, who said she was not consulted prior to the "personnel" item being added to the agenda. Waldridge joined Tippett in opposing Parker's termination and sharply criticized her colleagues for a lack of transparency on the decision.
"Hopefully, the commission does the right thing, acknowledges the violation and learns from the situation," Stewart said. "If not, The State Journal will ask the proper authorities to intervene."
The newspaper's first appeal would be to the Kentucky Attorney General's Office. Either the city or the newspaper could appeal the AG's opinion in Franklin County Circuit Court.