The Commission on Aging Board of Directors met Thursday afternoon and immediately went into a closed session.
The commission was to meet with an Internal Revenue Service representative, Michelle Smith, to ask that penalties and interest on what is now nearly $60,000 in unpaid payroll taxes be waived.
Under Kentucky law there are exemptions that allow for closed sessions if the criteria is met.
The Cynthiana Democrat objected to the closing of a public meeting under the exemptions presented by Mayor Steve Moses.
Smith told the commission that she could not disclose tax information about the agency in public session.
Moses declared that the meeting would be closed because of proposed or pending litigation.
However, the agenda provided to the newspaper cited that the discussion at Thursday’s special meeting would only be for purpose of discussing the tax bill and the possibility of waiving some accrued charges (penalties and interest).
Because the meeting was a special called meeting, discussions are limited by law to that which is on the agenda.
When the “litigation” exemption was challenged, Moses switched the exemption to “personnel.”
Again, the newspaper staff challenged Moses’ exemption and asked to be on the record as opposing the closed session.
Additionally, the Kentucky Open Meetings Law offers no exemption for any vote of any kind to be taken behind closed doors.
When the meeting was re-opened and the board declared that no action was taken. Judge Alex Barnett said that the IRS representative agreed to reduce the penalties for non-payment of payroll taxes with the understanding that the total bill and interest would be paid by May 8.
The Cynthiana Democrat has made open records requests for minutes, financial reports, budgets and the most recent audit.
Editor Becky Barnes said she will also be sending a letter to the Commission citing that the meeting was held in violation of the Kentucky Open Meetings Law.
“Discussion about the commission’s finances is not litigation or personnel matters,” she said.
Kentucky Press Association attorney Jeremy Rogers said the burden remains on the commission to provide valid exemptions for closing any public meeting of any public agency.
After submitting a letter to the commission citing a violation of KRS 61.800, the next recourse is to appeal to Kentucky’s Attorney General for an opinion regarding the validity of the meeting.