Editorials

Good move on open records

After weeks of stonewalling, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry's sudden eagerness for the release of documents at the center of a council investigation is enough to give you whiplash.

But he's on the right track at last.

By contrast, Newberry's assertion that the investigation is unwarranted is ridiculous.

Newberry says that, because embattled city employee Patrick Johnston told the investigative committee that he never directly accused anyone of fraud, there's no reason for the special committee to continue to exist.

"That stunning statement," Newberry wrote in a letter to the city's auditing firm, "creates substantial doubt whether any of the activities by the committee are warranted since the committee's very existence is predicated on the notion that Mr. Johnston had made fraud allegations that were inadequately investigated."

What's stunning is that Newberry thinks anyone who's been paying attention would fall for that.

Based on what's already known, the council committee has several legitimate lines of inquiry:

■ Why did the Newberry administration pressure Johnston and withhold information from the council in order to steer the city's insurance business to the Kentucky League of Cities, on whose board Newberry sat? How has that deal worked out for the city?

■ Was the administration's recommendation to eliminate Johnston's job related to his criticisms of the League of City's business ethics and the administration's approach to insurance procurement?

■ How well did the internal auditing process work in this case and are reforms needed?

It's also important to remember that the council was forced into using its subpoena powers because it couldn't pry the information it was seeking from the city government it was elected to lead.

Had Newberry called sooner for release of the documents, as councilman George Myers said, there's a good chance "we wouldn't be here today."

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