Editorials

Law chief's open-records request not private

Jim Newberry during a mayoral forum at Awesome Inc. in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, February 24, 2010. Photo by Matt Goins 9650
Jim Newberry during a mayoral forum at Awesome Inc. in Lexington, Ky., Wednesday, February 24, 2010. Photo by Matt Goins 9650 Lexington Herald-Leader

The cover-up is almost always worse than the crime or the embarrassing misstep.

You would think someone on the 12th floor of that Tower of Babel at 200 East Main St. would remember this axiom, proven time and again through the years by public figures who got tripped up because they forgot trying to hide an "Oops!" can be much, much worse than the "Oops!" itself.

But apparently, access to the offices of Mayor Jim Newberry and his inner circle requires passage through a memory eraser.

Because Newberry and friends obviously can't get their heads around the reality that, the more they stonewall on coughing up documents related to allegations of fraud in the purchase of the city's insurance, the more reason the public has to think they're trying to hide something really, really bad.

Not to mention they also make themselves look really, really silly in the process.

Internal Audit Director Bruce Sahli's decision to turn down a Herald-Leader open records request for a copy of the open records request filed by Law Commissioner Logan Askew in 2009 was just the latest example. Sahli's rationale for rejecting the newspaper's request was that Askew was acting as a private citizen when he filed his open records request.

Who cares? As First Amendment attorney Jon Fleischaker told the Herald-Leader, "open records requests have always been public documents, no matter who makes them." Sahli, and the Newberry administration, just look foolish claiming otherwise.

With the state auditor and a special committee of the Urban County Council looking into the allegations of fraud, most likely truth ultimately will win out in this case.

When it does, we would not be surprised if the "Oops!" being hidden now — if there indeed is an "Oops! — will look mild compared to the obtuse, bungling way Newberry and his administration have mishandled this affair.

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