The city of Lexington has filed a lawsuit against We See You Watching Lexington director Michael Maharrey. The city wants the court to overturn an attorney general open records decision ordering the Lexington Police Department to release documents relating to its 29 mobile surveillance cameras.
In an open records request, We See you Watching Lexington asked for information pertaining to these cameras, including purchase orders, receipts, federal grant applications and documents relating to the policies that govern their use. The LPD denied the request, citing a statute that exempts certain documents relating to homeland security, along with a second statute exempting certain “investigative reports.”
On appeal, the attorney general’s office rejected both exemptions claimed by the LPD.
A Fayette County constable served Maharrey with a summons on Monday, Oct. 2.
We See You Watching Lexington is not commenting on the specifics of the case at this time. Maharrey plans to mount an aggressive defense and is in the process of consulting with legal counsel.
The lawsuit underscores the need for accountability and oversight when it comes to government surveillance in Lexington. The police want to keep their surveillance programs hidden. The city apparently has their back when it comes to guarding information from the prying eyes of the public. That means we need to push for structural changes that will force government agencies in Fayette County to operate in the light. A taxpayer should not have to spend large amounts of money simply to get information about how his own government is watching him.
We See You Watching Lexington has a plan in place that would require government agencies in Lexington to develop a comprehensive plan, inform the public how it will use any surveillance technology and get approval before they acquire it. A local ordinance would take the first step toward limiting the unchecked use of surveillance technologies that violate basic privacy rights and feed into a broader national surveillance state.
If you live in Lexington, contact your city council member and ask them to introduce and pass this ordinance. You can find council contact information HERE.
Maharrey provides some more general information on the lawsuit in the video HERE.