- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A published report says state officials agreed to keep details of a proposed oil spill deal secret, but a judge rejected the idea.

The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1LiS1sn) reports the proposed settlement came in the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s case against Childers Oil Co. The eastern Kentucky business had been cited multiple times for contaminating a section of the Kentucky River when diesel fuel leaked on its property in Whitesburg.

The proposed agreement sought to have Childers pay the state $48,057 and included a confidentiality clause in which the cabinet would seal the settlement, keeping terms secret.

The proposal came before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate on Sept. 18. He rejected it, citing a missing signature on the proposed agreement. In the same order, he also rejected the request for confidentiality.

Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier-Journal, said the confidentiality agreement would have violated the state’s Open Records Act.

“I think Judge Wingate did exactly the right thing. Such an agreement with a confidentiality clause is unenforceable because under the Open Records Law, a contract - which is what a settlement agreement is - is a public document and they cannot mutually agree to make it a non-public document,” Fleischaker said.

The cabinet’s general counsel, Mike Haines, said the agency has a right to keep terms secret in such cases.

“But I would agree that it’s rare,” Haines said.

He said the state agreed to the clause because it was the only way Childers Oil would agree to pay the entire amount of the state’s cost to respond to the spill plus a penalty.

“We did it to resolve the case,” he said.

Susan Maines, the attorney for Childers Oil, didn’t respond to the newspaper’s attempts to seek comment.


Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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