Politics & Government

Road contractor's 1983 statement to investigators must be released, high court rules

Leonard Lawson in 2010.
Leonard Lawson in 2010. Herald-Leader

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 1983 statement that road contractor Leonard Lawson gave to state investigators is a public record.

Several media companies — the Lexington Herald-Leader, The Courier-Journal of Louisville and The Associated Press — have fought to see the statement, which Lawson made to state investigators during a probe of road contractors.

The statement was not released Thursday because Lawson has 20 days to petition the Supreme Court for a rehearing

The high court's ruling, in upholding a decision by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, said the public continues to have a valid interest in Lawson's statement after 30 years. Lawson maintained that the statement should not be released because doing so would violate his privacy.

Justice Lisbeth Hughes Abramson wrote for the court that the public has a right to know what the government was up to, The Associated Press reported; Justices Will T. Scott and Michelle Keller dissented, saying the statement is likely not of great public interest.

"We certainly have all respect for the Supreme Court of Kentucky, but we appreciate the perspective of the vigorous dissent in this particular case," said Lawson's attorney, J. Guthrie True of Frankfort, adding that "we will be carefully weighing our options."

In 1983, Mountain Enterprises, a former Lawson company, pleaded guilty to violating antitrust rules in relation to an investigation of collusion among road builders. Lawson was not charged in the case.

Lawson was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2008 in a different case, related to bribery, but he was acquitted on all counts.

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