Kentucky Sues to Block Pension Reform Analysis Release

Gov. Bevin’s office says law exempts disclosure of report because bill was ‘preliminary.’

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is suing the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition (KPPC) to reverse the release of an analysis of his pension reform plan by the state’s attorney general.

The lawsuit was filed against KPPC Coordinator Ellen Suetholz, who had filed an open record request in 2017 for the release of the actuarial analysis of Bevin’s proposed pension reform plan. In February, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear ruled that the office of the state budget director violated the Kentucky Open Records Act by refusing to turn over an actuarial analysis of a draft pension bill that had not been filed in the state’s general assembly.

In court filings, the governor’s office is asking the court to reverse Beshear’s decision, arguing that the analysis was “preliminary” and thus not subject to disclosure. It is also asking the court to conclude that the state’s budget director complied with the state’s Open Records Act, and offer any other relief to which the budget director is entitled.

“This is really unfortunate that the Bevin Administration has resorted to suing their own constituents to get their way,” said Suetholz in a statement. “It’s rather unusual for a Governor to take such a drastic step to prevent disclosure of a taxpayer funded document … this has been a complete lack of transparency on their part.”

Beshear found that Kentucky law KRS 61.878(1)(i), which states that certain public records are exempt from inspection except by court order, is inapplicable because the actuarial analysis cannot be characterized as a preliminary draft. Beshear reasoned that it does not represent a tentative version, but rather the final product itself.

Bevin’s office said that the attorney general’s conclusion takes “far too narrow of a view” of the law’s use of the term “preliminary draft,” and argued that with his “unprincipled decision,” Beshear is “disregarding well-established law and inventing a rationale to reach his desired result.”

The suit goes on to say that Beshear’s logic appears to be that because the budget director does not take final agency action with respect to the draft pension bill, no records related to the draft pension bill can be preliminary.

“That is to say, only an agency that takes final agency action on an issue can withhold documents as preliminary under the Open Records Act,” said the lawsuit. “That is a radical rewriting of the Open Records Act.”

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