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Lawsuit calls for Rich Storm to be impeached as state’s chief fisheries and wildlife

An Oldham County sportsman filed a complaint with the Franklin Circuit Court, requesting the removal of Rich Storm as commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the rescission of his contract.

Larry Richards is also asking the court to find that the commission violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act “by participating in closed meetings for unauthorized purposes and without sufficient public notice” and to impose a fine of $ 100 for each violation. .

Richards filed the lawsuit Wednesday against the commission and its chairman of the board, Karl Clinard, a Somerset orthodontist.

Clinard said Thursday he had not seen the trial and had no comment. Storm could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit, which has been attributed to Judge Phillip Shepherd, notes the recent ruling by Attorney General Daniel Cameron that the commission violated the state’s open meetings law on three occasions this year and most recently in connection with of his controversial reinstatement from Storm as Commissioner.

Cameron said the commission violated the law when it met behind closed doors without first providing sufficient explanation to close the meetings.

Clnard recently said it was a technical violation with no intention of breaking any law or hiding anything from the public. He noted that Cameron’s decision also referred to it as a technical violation.

Amy Bensenhaver, a retired assistant attorney general who has specialized in Kentucky’s open files and meetings laws for 25 years and is a co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition, said there was no technical violation of the law on open meetings. “

Clinard said departmental prosecutors in the last two and a half years he was president gave him a statement to read to go behind closed doors and that “no one has complained about it so far.”

Richards had complained to Cameron that the nine-member commission at its meeting on January 31 last year and the meetings on April 1 and April 14 this year held private sessions to discuss Storm and that they had violated the law on open meetings by not properly explaining the purpose of closed meetings.

Richards also claimed the commission could not discuss Storm behind closed doors, but Cameron said the commission did not break the law by discussing personnel matters in closed meetings.

“The defendants willfully violated the Open Meetings Act,” Richards’ trial said this week.

The lawsuit sought a temporary and permanent injunction removing Storm as commissioner. He was filed for Richards by Lexington attorney James Yoder.

Storm first became commissioner in January 2019 under the administration of Republican Governor Matt Bevin.

Richards said he doubted the commission would start the process again.

Despite Gov. Andy Beshear’s objections, the Fish and Wildlife Commission in April awarded Storm a new four-year contract to be commissioner for $ 140,000 per year and rising to $ 147,000 for each of the next three years. It included other benefits such as sick days, health insurance, and state payment of FICA, a US federal payroll tax.

Beshear and the commission argued for months over who could appoint the commissioner and set the salary – the executive branch or the commission. The commission first hired Storm in 2019 during the Bevin administration and the Beshear administration stopped paying his salary last July.

The Republican-led legislature this year approved a new Beshear veto law that made Storm’s return possible. The measure allows the Fish and Wildlife Council to appoint its own commissioner and set the salary for the position with the approval of the legislature’s government contract review committee.

A lawsuit regarding the authority of the commission is pending in the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

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