Jon Fleischaker and John Nelson (#724)
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act. The laws, originally passed in the mid-1970s, were amended in 1992. Attorney Jon Fleischaker and John Nelson, managing editor of the Advocate-Messenger in Danville and executive editor of Advocate Communications Inc., discuss the significance of the laws, which came about after a group of lawmakers and Kentucky Press Association representatives met to write the legislation.
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The open meetings law says that the formation of public policy is public business and meetings must be open to the public, with a few exceptions, such as discussions of proposed or pending litigation or discussions or hearings on specified personnel matters involving individuals. The law defines which groups are public agencies and sets out the specific requirements regarding when meetings can be closed to the public.
The open records law says that free and open examination of public records is in the public interest and specifies guidelines for the right of inspection. It also defines which records are exempt from public inspection.
Jon Fleischaker is chair of the Communications and Media Law Practice Group in Louisville and general counsel to the Kentucky Press Association.
John Nelson, as 2004 president of the Kentucky Press Association, led the state's first open records audit. He won the James Madison Award for Service to the First Amendment in 2010 from Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky.
Learn more: A booklet for citizens about the open meetings and open records laws, "Protecting Your Right to Know," is available from the Office of the Attorney General.