A.J. Green, Amye Bensenhaver and government transparency

Published 9:52 am Thursday, September 8, 2016

When A.J. Green takes the field for the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, there will be bunches of Bluegrass fans cheering for him, hoping to see a long pass downfield land in Green’s paws as he breaks for the endzone.

Green is an impressive athlete — he’s currently one of the best wide receivers on the planet. An elite athlete is not an easy thing to be. The vast majority of people who cheer for him don’t really have any sense for what it takes to reach that level of physical ability.

For me, walking a 5K in less than 45 minutes or mowing my entire yard in one go is more than enough to land me on the couch the rest of the day. I cannot comprehend what it takes to be A.J. Green.

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I feel the same way reading about the recent departure of Amye Bensenhaver from the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office.

I’m a huge fan of government transparency, open meetings and open records. I keep a copy of the reporter’s guide to open meetings and open records on my cell phone just in case I ever need it. I will sometimes read attorney general rulings just for fun (I know that makes me a huge nerd, and I don’t care). I even dabble in the “sport” — I’ve been a part of around half a dozen open meetings and records appeals and filed quite a few open records requests.

If you apply the football analogy to open meetings and open records, I’m a fan who watches every Sunday and occasionally tosses a football around with some friends. Amye Bensenhaver, on the other hand, is the A.J. Green of government transparency.

For most of my life, Bensenhaver has been authoring attorney general rulings concerning open meetings and open records. She’s penned thousands of rulings. Not tens, not hundreds — thousands. She signed the ruling on my very first appeal in 2008. She is one of the most influential people ever when it comes to what Kentuckians get to know about their government.

So when the headlines hit last week that Bensenhaver had retired from her position due at least in part to how she was being treated by political superiors in the AG’s office, it was for me like reading that the Bengals had cut A.J. Green just before the season opener because the new quarterback doesn’t like his running style.

I think that’s why you see so many people around the state in an uproar over this, even though the average Kentuckian is probably thinking “Amye who?”

Those of us who are fans of open government are sitting on our couches, dumbstruck at the loss of a star player and wondering just how bad our season will be now.