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Former assistant attorney general Bensenhaver named director of Center for Open Government

Amye Bensenhaver, one of the foremost experts on Kentucky’s nationally recognized open records and open meetings laws, is joining the Bluegrass Institute team as director of the free-market think tank’s Center for Open Government.

Bensenhaver, winner in 2016 of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center Award, spent 25 years as an assistant attorney general, during which she wrote nearly 2,000 legal opinions forcing government entities to operate in the open when too many of them preferred keeping questionable – sometimes even corrupt – activities hidden from public view.

Since her retirement in 2016, Bensenhaver has monitored judicial, legislative and administrative developments in the laws, and trained local and state government bodies and policymakers throughout the commonwealth in open records and open meetings requirements.

Amye Bensenhaver

“We are beyond fortunate that Amye wants to continue strengthening governmental transparency in Kentucky by joining with the Bluegrass Institute to head our new Center for Open Government,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “Amye’s integrity, experience and unmatched knowledge of Kentucky’s open records and open meetings policies will allow us to fulfill our vision of becoming the nation’s most authoritative, recognized and go-to source for policies protecting and advancing government transparency.”

Bensenhaver will receive a Bluegrass Institute Liberty Award at the organization’s 2017 Legislative Breakfast & Liberty Awards on Thursday, May 25, in the Keeneland Room @ Keeneland Racecourse, 4201 Versailles Road, Lexington, 40510. Information about this event can be found here.

“I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to continue to serve in the cause of open government,” Bensenhaver said. “I share the Bluegrass Institute’s deep commitment to government transparency and look forward to advancing that vision in Frankfort and across our commonwealth.”

Bensenhaver in 2015 consulted with the Bluegrass Institute in an open meetings appeal which established that a Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) committee formed to hire a search firm for a new education commissioner operated improperly. Although the board denied the complaint, the appeal was successful as former Attorney General Jack Conway ruled the committee failed to comply with the law.

The ruling resulted in the state education board taking a more serious approach toward open meetings and open records laws. Following the Bluegrass Institute’s demand that the KBE conduct a training session during a future regular webcast meeting with an open meetings expert from the Attorney General’s office, the board’s legal advisors briefing new board members on their first day in office concerning their responsibilities regarding open meetings and records.

Those attending the Bluegrass Institute’s May 25 legislative breakfast will receive an advance copy of a new report by Bensenhaver providing a roadmap for policymakers, the public and press on the need to update Kentucky’s sunshine policies to reflect the technological realities of the 21st century while also protecting the strength of those laws.

“Kentucky cannot afford to be complacent about the law, but needs to move it forward in a way that’s consistent with legislators’ intent in passing the law, which clearly stresses favoring government transparency,” Bensenhaver said. “We believe that this effort will create the most favorable climate for open government in Kentucky at the state and local level.”

From Bluegrass Institute Center for Open Government Communications

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