‘Transparency will be the new rule’

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Governor directs cabinet to begin opening records

Gov. Steve Beshear took steps Tuesday to open records of child fatality cases after lawsuits, legislators and Attorney General opinions called on the state to do so.

The governor outlined a four-step plan during a 15-minute press conference in the Capitol.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services has been under fire for several months for its refusal to open records related to a child’s fatality or near-fatality. The governor said the first step will be to direct the cabinet to “immediately begin opening records of cases in which abuse or neglect led to a child fatality or near-fatality.

“Transparency will be the new rule,” the governor stated, noting that some information might still be redacted before the records are released. “I think the time has come, given the horrifying details of a few cases, for the balance to tip toward increased openness.”

Noting that in a self-examination of Kentucky and the 49 other states by the cabinet showed that Kentucky is a “permissive state, meaning that certain records in these circumstances may be reviewed but 32 states are mandatory states, meaning the law directs the information must be released, spelling out what can and cannot be made public. I believe it is time for Kentucky to become a mandatory state.”

The governor also said he will propose legislation to create an independent review panel, to be appointed by the Attorney General, to examine child fatalities and near-fatalities where child abuse and/or neglect are alleged. He said he had proposed similar legislation twice previously but that it did not survive the legislative process.

The governor’s press conference came on the eve of yet another hearing in Franklin Circuit Court concerning the release of records that the cabinet has refused previously. The Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal are seeking to enforce a judge’s order that the cabinet release the records.

His announcement Tuesday comes just days after Rep. Tom Burch and Sen. Julie Denton, chairs of their respective chamber’s Health and Welfare Committee, said they would hold hearings about the cabinet’s refusal to release records, not only to the media but to legislators as well.

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