Fayette County

Group that oversees Lexington’s historic courthouse turns over records to Herald-Leader

A group that oversees the publicly-owned former Fayette County courthouse has voluntarily released its financial records after the Lexington Herald-Leader sued the group in Fayette Circuit Court last month.

Historic Courthouse LLLP, a for-profit entity run by city employees, agreed late Monday to release documents the Herald-Leader had previously requested but was denied. Included in the newspaper’s requests was detailed financial information that would show how money generated from leases for the courthouse is spent. The newspaper had also requested the individual leases for the courthouse. Historic Courthouse LLLP released the leases for Thirsty Fox, Zim’s Cafe, the Breeders’ Cup, Limestone Hall and VisitLex but blacked out or redacted how much each of those entities paid in rent.

In a letter dated Aug. 12, Kara Read Marino, a lawyer for Historic Courthouse LLLP said the group agreed to release all of the information the Herald-Leader had requested. But the group continues to believe it is not subject to the Open Records Act, the letter said.

“Historic Courthouse does not concede, nor agree, that it is subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act,” Marino wrote. “By making these disclosures, Historic Courthouse does not waive the application of the Kentucky Open Records Act, nor any exemptions therein, except as to those documents provided with this letter.”

The letter asked that the lawsuit filed by the Herald-Leader on July 24 be dismissed.

In its lawsuit, the newspaper asked a Fayette Circuit Court judge to determine if Historic Courthouse LLLP is a public agency and must comply with the state Open Records Act. The newspaper argued that $22 million in city money was used to pay for the $32 million overhaul of the former courthouse. State law says any entity that receives more than 25 percent of its total budget from taxpayers is subject to the state Open Records Act. The board of Historic Courthouse LLLP is also current or former city employees.

Historic Courthouse LLLP has argued that it is a for-profit entity and not subject to the state’s Open Records Act.

City officials have said Historic Courthouse LLLP had to be created to receive nearly $11 million in state and federal historic tax credits. Governments can not receive tax credits.

Each tenant pays a different amount based on square footage and the conditions of its lease, according to the documents released late Monday by Historic Courthouse LLLP. Breeders’ Cup has an annual rent of $107,616 for the first five years of its lease for approximately 8,968 square feet. That’s $12 per square foot.

LexEffect, which runs Limestone Hall,the top floor event space, pays $17,728 annually for 8,864 feet in its first year or $2 a square foot. The rent climbs each year, reaching $35,456 in the fifth year, according to its lease. Visit Lex pays $14,820 annually for 1,234 square feet for its ground floor visitors center. It pays $73,512 annually for 6,126 square feet of office space on the second floor.

Comrest, the parent company for Zim’s Cafe and Thirsty Fox, pays an annual rent of $78,172.50 for 4,467 square feet.

Those annual rents go up over time, the leases show.

City officials said they could not immediately answer other questions about Historic Courthouse LLLP operations and expenses.