Nebraska State Fair sued for breaking state open meetings law

A Grand Island based radio station group is suing the Nebraska State fair board, accusing them of withholding public records and breaking the state's open meetings law. (KSNB)
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) A Grand Island based radio station group is suing the Nebraska State Fair board for breaking the state open meetings law and for withholding public records.

Legacy Communications LLC is filing a complaint in Hall County District Court against the board. Legacy also operates under the trade names Hometown Family Radio and GI Family Radio. Its properties include Grand Island radio station KRGI.

In their complaint, Legacy said it filed three public records requests on September 30, November 27 and December 10 of 2019. They allege that the fair board did not adequately respond to those requests.

“We have had nothing but a fight to have transparency and get the information that is owed to the taxpayers and the citizens of the state of Nebraska,” GI Family Radio CEO Alan Usher said.

The complaint also documents Legacy's request to see the minutes from a series of meetings the board held during the 2019 State Fair between August 24 and September 3. Legacy CEO Alan Usher was told he could look at the draft minutes for those meetings, but that he could not make photos, video recordings or copies of those minutes. Usher was allowed to see those draft minutes, but was watched to ensure he did not photograph, film or copy the minutes.

Legacy also accuses the state fair board of misusing executive sessions. The November 22 meeting agenda listed an item stating that the fair board intended to go into executive session to discuss budget issues. When a news reporter objected, the board amended its motion and voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters. At the end of the executive session, the board resumed open session and voted on the budget without discussion. Executive Director Lori Cox said they were discussing the personnel they were going to let go, which is allowed to be closed door.

Legacy's complaint contains a partial transcript of an interview with executive director Lori Cox by KRGI News Director Tyson Havranek in which she appears to confirm that budget issues were discussed in executive session, saying in part, "It was exactly as stated that budget and personnel issues were discussed in executive session".

The complaint also accuses the board of failing to state its reason for executive session on four separate occasions.

The complaint also accuses the fair board of breaking a law which requires that minutes of public meetings be made available within ten days of a particular meeting.

Legacy is asking a judge to order the board to produce any requested documents in its possession or to give a valid reason for denying the request.

Legacy also wants the court to void the state fair board meetings held between August 24 and September 3 as well as meetings held October 11 and November 22.