ACLU-KY Defends We See You Watching Lexington’s Access to Public Records

For Immediate Release Oct. 24, 2017

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky will represent We See You Watching Lexington director Michael Maharrey in a lawsuit filed against him by the city after he attempted to obtain documents relating to surveillance cameras owned and operated by the Lexington Police Department (“LPD”).

“Honestly, I think it’s a bullying tactic more than anything,” Maharrey said. “I think the city thought it could just slap me with a lawsuit and I’d go away. Newsflash – I’m not going away.”

The LPD denied Maharrey’s records 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. At that point the city sued Maharrey.

“One of the fundamental principles of our government is transparency. The public has a right to know the actions of government officials and disseminate that information to others. City officials appear to be shirking their responsibility to provide records they are obligated to by law, simply because they don’t want the public to have access to them,” ACLU of Kentucky attorney Heather Gatnarek said.

Maharrey formed a grassroots organization to address surveillance issues in Lexington after the city installed cameras at the Berry Hill Skate Park over the summer. The open records request was part of We See You Watching Lexington’s efforts to learn more about surveillance and ensure some accountability exists.

“It turns out it doesn’t,” Maharrey said. “This lawsuit underscores the need for transparency and oversight when it comes to government surveillance in Lexington. The police clearly want to keep their surveillance programs hidden. We need to push for structural changes that will force government agencies in Fayette County to operate transparently.”

We See You Watching Lexington is working for the introduction and passage of a local ordinance that 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.

ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Clay Barkley of Strobo Barkley PLLC and ACLU of Kentucky Attorney Heather Gatnarek represent Maharrey.

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We See You Watching Lexington is a coalition of people concerned about privacy and government surveillance in Lexington, Kentucky. Our goal is to “watch the watchers,” and ensure surveillance programs operated by the Lexington Police Department and other government agencies are transparent, accountable, and kept within strict parameters.

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