Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

October 24, 2012

Utility questions dominate Olive Hill Council

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

Oct. 24, 2012 — Last Tuesday’s Olive Hill City Council meeting was filled with discussion regarding the ongoing Attorney General’s review of the city utilities and results of a recently conducted electric rate study.

City Council candidate Glenn Meade addressed Mayor Danny Sparks and the Council at the meeting’s outset, inquiring whether the Council’s unanimous directive to request a formal AG investigation had been included in its response to the agency’s Sept. 28 inquiry.

Meade asserted that the Council’s mandate and answers to the AG’s questions are two different issues that needed to be resolved separately.

“The Attorney General’s office has everything they asked for,” Sparks replied repeatedly, when pressed on the topic.

When the Council was asked if they felt the issue had been fully addressed, Council member Linda Lowe said, “We feel like it has been.”

Questions then arose regarding the presentation of results from the electric rate study performed by Power Systems Engineering, Inc. – a Wisconsin-based utility consulting firm.

Sparks stated that he had arranged two back-to-back “closed work sessions” on Sept. 20 consisting of only three Council members during each session.

A representative from PSE was on hand at both sessions to discuss the firm’s findings and new electric rate recommendations with Council members.

These closed sessions raise questions in regards to the Kentucky Open Meeting Law which states, “the formation of public policy is public business and should not be conducted in secret.”

That law also states that any meeting of a quorum (four or more Council members) constitutes a public meeting.

Because the closed work sessions only included three Council members at a time, those meetings were not open to the public.

Subsection 2 of KRS 61.810, however, states that a public agency cannot hold back-to-back “less than quorum” meetings in order to avoid the public meeting requirements under state law, which include allowing access to the public and the news media and providing advance notice of the meeting – none of which were done.

“I made the decision to have these work sessions,” Sparks said when questions arose as to why these meetings were conducted in secret.

Some Council members, such as Jerry Callihan, refused to attend the sessions because they were closed to the public.

“I didn’t go to the meeting because I felt anything they had to say, they needed to present in front of the whole council and the public,” Callihan said.

In other business, the city tabled an annexation ordinance because it lacked identifying information about the land to be added to the city.

The Council also heard first reading of an ordinance to adopt higher pay grades for the city’s police force.

The next regular meeting of the Olive Hill City Council will be at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the senior citizens center.

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.