Ryan Quarles Blatantly Violating Open Records Act
FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 5, 2022) – On Thursday, the Kentucky Democratic Party appealed a clear violation of the Kentucky Open Records Act by Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and his department to the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
“Ryan Quarles and Joe Bilby are clearly violating the law and clearly hiding something from Kentuckians,” said Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge. “While refusing to comply with the law, we’re concerned they are deleting anything incriminating or problematic in their personal email. If they weren’t conducting state business and communicating about lawsuits in their personal emails, they would have quickly said there are no such records. A man running for governor and his chief lawyer running to be a judge should know Kentucky law and follow it.”
Chair Elridge said this is a clear violation of both the law and the trust of the people of Kentucky and called on Cameron to respond promptly and to force Quarles to follow the law.
Almost three months ago, the KDP requested “Any and all records and or email communications sent to or from private, non-state-issued email accounts to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan F. Quarles, or Kentucky Department of Agriculture personnel, related to litigation involving the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and/or Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of Agriculture.”
“It is possible that KDA is in possession of some documents responsive to your request and not covered by any privilege or statutory exemption” responded KDA General Counsel Joseph Bilby, who continues to take $115,000 a year from taxpayers while running to be a circuit judge in Franklin County and operating a private law firm in Frankfort.
Bilby asked the KDP to provide what litigation the party is seeking information about, which is not required by the Open Records Act. The KDP reminded him that was not required and that the request is meant to be comprehensive as to the category of records it seeks.
Bilby never responded to that Feb. 17 email, a violation of the act.
The KDP followed up on April 20, reminding Bilby of the request and asking specifically for correspondence of Quarles, Bilby, Quarles’s brother Clinton who is an attorney for his brother’s agency and former communications director Sean Southard. The email requested the “emails and text messages that were generated or sent on government owned email accounts and cell phones as well as those generated on non-government email accounts and cell phones.”
Bilby again refused to respond, a clear violation.
Bilby never denied there were existing records and, outside of attorney-client privilege, never denied the request, violating the Kentucky Open Records Act.
“This begs one very important question: what are Ryan Quarles and the Department of Agriculture hiding from the people of Kentucky?” Elridge said.