Thrasher threatens lawsuit against county judge for taking him off meeting notice list

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023 — A High Grove man has threatened to file a lawsuit against Nelson County Judge-Executive Tim Hutchins for his failure to recognize him as an official “media outlet” for the purpose of being advised of special meetings of Nelson Fiscal Court.

Don Thrasher, who was one of Hutchins primary election opponents in 2022, claims that by not recognizing him as a media outlet, Hutchins is in violation of the Kentucky Open Meetings Act.

County Attorney Chip McKay initially advised Hutchins’ office to add Thrasher to the meeting notification list when Thrasher made the request, but Hutchins — in what the lawsuit says was a “vindictive and retaliatory move” — had Thrasher removed from the list.

By doing so, Thrasher claims that Hutchins has violated his constitutional rights and Kentucky law.

State law and the Kentucky constitution do not define what constitutes a “online media organization.”

DEFINING ONLINE MEDIA. While state law is silent on defining “online media,” the Kentucky Press Association recognizes online media publications that meet certain criteria, including:

— must have been published for the previous 12-month period;

— must be updated no less than one time each week;

— must be principally devoted to the dissemination of original local or general news and other news content, with a minimum of 25 percent of overall content;
must be available to the general public on the World Wide Web;

— must not serve primarily as a platform to promote the interest and/or opinions of a special interest group, individual or cause;

— must have a known Kentucky-based office of publication, open to the public, where business or publication is transacted, have a local telephone number and must include contact information in each updated publication;

— must abide by copyright laws.

NEWS BREAK APP. Thrasher’s previous website was called the Kentucky Record which later was named the Nelson County News-Sentinel. He now publishes stories via a smartphone app called News Break. Thrasher claims that his latest story posted on News Break had greater readership than the local newspaper.

Stories published on News Break cannot be fully accessed until you download the app to your phone.

The News Break app reviews the Gazette found gave the app less than 2 out of 5 stars, with reviewers citing a variety of reasons they did not like the app or the quality of the content it carries. The app is available for iPhone and Android phones.

WHAT HE’S SEEKING. Thrasher seeks the court to force Hutchins to place him on the email distribution list for special meetings.

The lawsuit also asks the court to declare the sidewalk in front of the Old Courthouse a “free speech zone” so Thrasher can place a stationary video camera there for a “Where Is Judge Hutchins?” website he is apparently planning.

According to Thrasher’s filing, the camera would be attended at all times.

Editor’s note: A lawsuit represents one side of a disagreement.


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