Today’s meeting of downtown merchants and some Paducah Renaissance Alliance board members to discuss issues about Downtown After Dinner may not be open to the news media and public.
PRA Executive Director Steve Doolittle told a Sun reporter on April 15 the meeting would be closed. He said the group is not elected or appointed by any governing body. PRA Chairman Bruce Brockenborough invited members of the group to provide input on Downtown After Dinner. Doolittle said the advisory group has no budget or any authority to create or set policy. He called it an ad hoc committee not subject to Kentucky open meetings laws.
The Sun contacted Kentucky Press Association attorney Jeremy Rogers. Rogers cited Kentucky Revised Statute 61.805, Paragraph 2, Sections F and G. The statute reads that all boards and committees, including ad hoc and advisory committees, are subject to open meetings laws.
The meeting is scheduled for noon at the PRA office, 605 Broadway. The PRA gathered downtown merchants and restaurateurs to discuss improvements to Downtown After Dinner. Several area businesses have complained about losing customers during the weekly Saturday night event, while others maintain business is better. The festival is scheduled to begin May 29.
Brockenborough said Doolittle wants to close the meeting to the public to encourage members to speak frankly about Downtown After Dinner. As chairman of the PRA board, Brockenborough said he believes he has to support Doolittle’s decisions that will best serve the PRA’s goals.
“We’re going to improve Downtown After Dinner no matter what,” Brockenborough said. “We’ll come up with a compromise and get the input of multiple parties.”
Doolittle said an unofficial group meeting at the PRA office was no different than a group of merchants meeting for an informal discussion at a local restaurant, and the latter would not be subject to open meetings laws. He referred a letter from the Sun requesting the meeting be open to City Attorney David Denton.
“As far as we are concerned, we have received the letter to the PRA,” Denton said Wednesday afternoon. “We do not yet have a response.”
Denton said attorneys in his firm were reviewing the letter and debating points of law. The firm would inform the PRA of its opinion before today’s meeting.
“Naturally, we are going to comply with the law. Of course, we will,” Doolittle said.