By John Cheves – firstname.lastname@example.org
The statement: “Prosecutors said when Barr was counsel to Fletcher, critical documents mysteriously disappeared. And the attorney general officially cited Barr, calling his actions a subversion of the state’s open records law.”
— U.S. Rep. Ben Chander, D-Versailles, attacking his Republican challenger, Andy Barr, in a commercial now running on Lexington television stations.
The ruling: Mostly false.
The facts: The “prosecutors” cited in the first sentence actually is just one man, Pierce Whites, an aide to Democratic state House Speaker Greg Stumbo. Whites also worked for Stumbo five years ago when Stumbo was the attorney general investigating Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
In July, Whites — a Democratic appointee who gives money to Democratic causes — told a newspaper that “critical documents mysteriously disappeared” in Frankfort while Fletcher was governor and Barr was one of his staff lawyers. This is the interview from which Chandler’s ad quotes.
The only example provided to support Whites’ statement is a 2007 opinion from the attorney general’s office, which Stumbo and Whites led, chiding the Fletcher administration for “its apparent failure to implement a program for ensuring preservation of records.” The second part of Chandler’s claim refers to this attorney general’s opinion.
In that case, a man named Dennis Langford used the Open Records Act to ask for any records created by Fletcher’s 2003 transition team regarding the state Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction.
On behalf of the governor’s office, where he was deputy general counsel, Barr said he could find no such records. Barr forwarded the request to David Reichert, an attorney for that department. Reichert said he found just one memo. After Langford appealed his request to the attorney general, Reichert said he found some additional records stored in a hearing room and he offered to provide those.
The attorney general’s office said the Fletcher administration did not violate the Open Records Act, because it apparently produced all of the relevant records it still had on hand. However, the administration seemingly failed to maintain public records as required by law, subverting the law’s purpose, the attorney general said.
“Because the office of the governor failed to provide even a minimal explanation for the apparent loss or destruction of the record(s), this office must conclude that it failed to adequately manage its records,” the attorney general’s office wrote.
Chandler’s ad says “the attorney general officially cited Barr” in this opinion “calling his actions a subversion of the state’s open records law.” It did not. The opinion was addressed to Barr as a lawyer for the governor’s office, but it did not accuse Barr individually of wrongdoing or sanction him in any way. Barr never worked for the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction and did not manage its record-keeping.