by Brendan McCarthy, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
January 5, 2016
In one of his last acts in office, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway issued a ruling last week that paves the way for public officials to use private cell phones to carry out public business.
The decision, issued Dec. 30, stated that the Louisville Water Company did not violate the Open Records Act when it refused to release cell phone communications.
The public agency's former top attorney, Barbara Dickens, had filed records requests seeking cell phone communications and text messages of LWC executives. Her requests were denied and her attorney appealed the matter to Conway's office.
The attorney general's decision centered on ownership of the cell phone. "Cell phone communications, including calls or text messages, made using a private cell phone that is paid for with private funds, are not prepared or in the possession of a public agency" the ruling stated. Conway could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Longtime Louisville media attorney Jon Fleischaker, who works with the Kentucky Press Association, called the decision misguided and troubling.
"This has, really, the potential for bad ramifications for the public and for transparency in general," he said.
Fleischaker, who has represented our newsroom, spoke with us at length about the ruling and its implications.
Read Conway's ruling here.