Politics & Government

KCTCS board picked preferred candidate for president without notifying media of meeting

P.G. Peeples, CEO of the Urban League of Lexington. 2008 staff file photo by David Perry
P.G. Peeples, CEO of the Urban League of Lexington. 2008 staff file photo by David Perry

When the Kentucky Community and Technical College System Board of Regents held a special meeting Tuesday in Frankfort to pick a preferred presidential candidate, no one from the media or the public witnessed the event.

That's because lawyers for KCTCS decided to invoke a little-used section of the state's Open Meetings Act, effectively allowing the board to conduct public business in secret.

Under state law, a public agency may hold a special meeting if it posts a notice at the meeting site 24 hours ahead of time and notifies any media outlet that has submitted a letter asking to be told of special meetings.

Many public agencies choose to publicize their special meetings broadly, at a minimum issuing a news release or emailing their media contact list, but the only public notice of the KCTCS meeting was a posting placed Monday at the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce building, where the regents met Tuesday.

KCTCS spokeswoman Kristi Middleton, whose office has issued at least 40 news releases so far this year, confirmed that officials chose not to communicate the time and location of the board's special meeting because no media outlets have letters on file at KCTCS' Versailles headquarters specifically seeking notification of special meetings.

Louisville attorney Jon Fleischaker, an open-meetings expert, said it's obvious that there's a lot of public interest in the next president of the statewide community college system.

"They didn't break the law, but they violated the spirit of the law," he said. "It shows a lack of any feel for public relations in what they're doing."

P.G. Peeples, chairman of the KCTCS Board of Regents, said he didn't realize that KCTCS officials had not notified the media.

"I was surprised when I heard about it yesterday evening," he said. "Never is there any intent to keep the press out of our business."

In contrast, the University of Kentucky issues media advisories about all of its board of trustees meetings, whether they are special committee meetings or gatherings of the full board, spokesman Jay Blanton said.

"It's been our traditional practice," Blanton said. "We know the media interest in activities of the UK board, and those are public meetings, so we've always distributed media advisories."

KCTCS also sometimes tells the public about special meetings. In a news release issued Wednesday announcing that KCTCS Chancellor Jay Box would be the board's preferred candidate to replace retiring President Michael McCall, officials announced that another special meeting would be held Nov. 19 to allow the board to take a final vote on hiring Box.