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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Is A SHAME Bowling Green City Commissioners Denied Newspaper Requests For Applicants' Names, And The Attorney General Finds In Newspaper's Favor.

Commission Seat: AG says city was wrong to deny list
BG officials refused two open records requests for names of those seeking commission post


The state Office of the Attorney General has ruled that Bowling Green city government was wrong in keeping secret the names of people who recently sought a vacant seat on the Bowling Green Board of Commissioners, the Daily News learned this morning.

The city denied two open records requests filed by the Daily News while the process was ongoing. The newspaper appealed those denials to Attorney General Jack Conway.

“Resolution of the issue presented in this appeal turns on the fact that the public interest in the identities of persons seeking appointment to elective office is often greater than that of the public interest in the identities of persons seeking public employment,” according to a written decision signed by Assistant Attorney General Amye L. Bensenhaver, which arrived by mail at the newspaper today.

“Although public employees serve the public, they do not represent the public in the manner of an elected official, and the public’s interest in them is, in general, reduced,” the decision continued.

In summary, the attorney general’s decision said the public’s interest in monitoring the selection process for an elective office outweighs the applicants’ privacy interests and that the latter must yield to the public interest.

The Daily News also submitted a third request for the names following the announcement March 3 of Melinda Hill’s appointment to the city commission.

The city responded to that request with a list of applicants - however, the names were redacted, with the exception of three people the Daily News had identified outside City Hall as they were being interviewed by commissioners on March 1. Those three people were Hill, Robin Baldwin and John Deeb.

The seat in question was vacated after former Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker was appointed Kentucky secretary of state by Gov. Steve Beshear earlier this year. City Commissioner Joe Denning first assumed duties as mayor pro tem, then was appointed mayor by the commission, creating the open seat.

Following the Feb. 15 deadline for resume submissions, the city said 18 applications had been received. The Daily News filed an open records request seeking the names of the 18 candidates.

On Feb. 21, Baldwin told the Daily News she had submitted an application. The Daily News then submitted its second open records request following Baldwin’s disclosure, arguing that because the public knew Baldwin was running, the public should also know who the other candidates were.

The city denied both requests. Upon receiving notice of the Daily News’ appeal to the attorney general, the city filed a response with the attorney general’s office.

“The public, including the applicants’ current employer, coworkers and others, have no right to view the unsuccessful applicants’ resumes and to allow such a review may work to prevent others from submitting resumes should this process be followed again,” the city argued in its response.

The attorney general disagreed with that position.

“Persons submitting resumes to the Board of Commissioners for consideration to fill Mayor Denning’s vacant seat therefore forfeited a greater measure of their personal privacy when they ‘threw their hats in the ring,’ ” the decision read.

Neither City Attorney Gene Harmon nor City Clerk Katie Schaller was immediately available this morning to comment on the attorney general’s ruling.



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