The Kentucky Court of Appeals issued a unanimous opinion late last month that reversed a circuit court ruling voiding actions taken by the Campbell County Board of Education during August and September 2021 meetings that were determined to be in violation of the Open Meetings Act (OMA).
As first reported by Link NKY, Campbell County Circuit Judge Julie R. Ward had ordered the board to pay attorney fees and ruled that, because COVID masking requirements at the meetings were deemed to be in violation of OMA, the business at those meetings was invalid.
Campbell County appealed the ruling. KSBA Staff Attorney John Powell filed an amicus brief in support of the school board, arguing the circuit judge exceeded her authority when she voided votes that happened during the meetings, including a vote taken on tax rates.
The higher court, in its Aug. 25 opinion, agreed:
“Both the Board and the KSBA argue that KRS 61.848(5) does not authorize a court to void actions taken in public meetings which violate KRS 61.840, the statute the Board was found to have violated. We agree this is a correct reading of the statute.”
The ruling also said that Campbell County was not subject to attorney fees because the board operated in good faith and because the OMA violation was not “willful.”
"This clarifies that votes taken at a meeting where the Open Meetings Act was violated can only be voided if tied to efforts to do things in secret," Powell said. "The Campbell County board didn’t try to do anything in secret, so votes taken at those meetings couldn't be voided."
Read the Kentucky Court of Appeals opinion for Campbell County Board of Education v. Moellman, S.W.3d (2023)