Directors’ vote to ban public from meeting was evasive tactic to avoid embarrassing open discussion

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By Becky Barnes

A special meeting of the Commission on Aging board of directors, which was held last Thursday afternoon was a paragon of how not to hold a public meeting.
The directors voted unanimously to close the meeting despite objection from The Cynthiana Democrat citing that closing the meeting for financial discussion was against the Kentucky Open Meetings Law.
An agent with the Internal Revenue Service told board members that she could not discuss specifics of the board’s indebtedness, its penalties and interest, with anyone other than the board of directors.
On Mayor Steve Moses’ suggestion, a motion was made to go into executive session. When asked for a specific reason for closing the meeting, Mayor Steve Moses replied that it was for litigation. Judge Alex Barnett questioned the validity of that exemption. That’s when Moses relayed that it would be for “personnel.” Barnett, at this point, made no attempt to object.
The question of specifics arose and Moses declared that it would be a specific personnel discussion.
When the board’s own agenda states that the purpose for the meeting is to discuss the commission’s $60,000 tax bill and the possibility of waiving some accrued charges, it’s difficult to see where that can be conveniently declared as “litigation” or “personnel” or any of the other exemptions allowed by law.
It was a blatant evasion tactic to skirt around the law.
There were other ways to handle the discussion without banning the public from a public meeting.
The IRS agent could have met with a less-than-quorum of the board. Perhaps board chairman Dr. Beth Laytart, Mayor Moses and Judge Barnett could have listened to the agent’s offer then brought it back to the rest of the board for an open session discussion.
No matter how you look at it, the directors broke the public’s trust by closing a public meeting that was a direct discussion about how taxpayers’ money was appropriated and how federal and state payroll taxes were not paid; how the board was unaware of the delinquent taxes until the bill totaled nearly $60,000; and how to stabilize a train wreck.
Granted, that could prove to be an embarrassing topic. Certainly it would be better to confront the public with a little egg on your face than to have to eat crow.