Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration cannot delay handing over records naming investors in the partially state-funded Braidy Industries, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.
The Courier Journal requested documents identifying Braidy’s investors back in June 2017 after the state government made a $15 million direct investment in the company, which plans to build a roughly $1.68 billion aluminum rolling mill near Ashland. Bevin was involved personally in arranging the investment.
The economic development cabinet withheld relevant records concerning the company, citing privacy concerns and exemptions in the Kentucky Open Records Act, but Attorney General Andy Beshear determined that the records the Courier Journal sought are subject to public disclosure. The cabinet appealed his decision.
Then, in December, Braidy publicly identified several individuals as shareholders. And in March, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled the state cannot legally withhold public records that identify Braidy’s shareholders and ordered their release.
The cabinet eventually appealed to the Court of Appeals. That led to this month’s ruling.
“The names of the shareholders have been publicly disclosed by Braidy Industries itself. We cannot conclude that the Cabinet has a greater interest in the privacy of a corporation’s shareholders than the corporation itself,” the court ruled.
“Further, the public interest in the nature of a private corporation supported by public funds clearly outweighs the minimal privacy interest in a name.”
Cabinet spokesman Jack Mazurak said Thursday afternoon that its legal team is aware of the ruling and evaluating various options.
The Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on the merits of the case, only on the cabinet’s request for relief.
“The Court of Appeals agreed that Judge Shepherd was right in issuing an injunction to release these records,” said Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for the Courier Journal and a recognized expert on Kentucky’s open records laws.
“This case should have been over the day after Braidy released the names of the shareholders,” Fleischaker added.
Written by Morgan Watkins. Cross-posted with permission
from the Courier-Journal via the Kentucky Press News Service.