Wildlife Commission must hire outside lawyer for open meetings complaint

Source: Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state Fish and Wildlife Commission Board must hire an attorney to get guidance on responding to an open meetings complaint.

During a 30-minute meeting Wednesday, the board authorized chairman Dr. Karl Clinard to consult with an attorney at no more than $250 an hour.

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The commission must respond by 3 p.m. Thursday. Clinard also will have to work with the Fish and Wildlife staff to stay within state procurement rules for such contract work, according to discussion during Wednesday’s special meeting.

According to Clinard’s synopsis to the board, the complaint was filed by an individual on April 19 raising questions about the board’s meeting in January 2020 and its April 2021 meeting when it met during executive session and hired Rich Storm as commissioner under a contract that was discussed during the closed session.

Clinard said he responded to the person, saying attorneys always were at Commission meetings and advised the board on how to proceed. The chairman said he thought that explanation would satisfy the person but instead, he received word from the state Attorney General’s office Monday that a formal complaint had been filed and the Commission has until 3 p.m. Thursday to respond.

That deadline prompted Wednesday’s meeting.

Clinard did not disclose the name of the person who filed the complaint or the details of the complaint.

Part of the issue may have been how the board went into executive session in April and how it handled Storm’s hiring once it came out. As WTVQ ABC 36 News reported at the time, the board did not disclose any details of Storm’s contract at the time of the vote; the station had to obtain that information later from the Commission staff.

During Wednesday’s meeting, attorney Sarah Cronan, the general counsel for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said she and other staff attorneys couldn’t represent the board because of ongoing litigation between the board, the Cabinet and the state Finance Cabinet.

Likewise, the AG’s office can’t represent the commission because of potential conflicts created by the same litigation.

Clinard said in the five years he’s been on the board, it marks the first time the board has had an open meetings complaint. And it’s the first time “our attorney has refused to represent us,” he noted, calling it “disappointing.”