A court order issued this week instructs Gov. Matt Bevin's administration to publicly release documents that show the names of investors in Braidy Industries, but the legal battle isn't over.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a decision Tuesday ordering the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to release to The Courier Journal four documents that name certain investors in Braidy, including a stock purchase agreement and investor's rights agreement.
"In light of recent developments in which Braidy has been reported to have negotiated additional capital investments from Russian investors, the taxpayers of Kentucky have a heightened interest in public disclosure, and a legitimate need to confirm the expectation that the rights of the public have been adequately protected by the Cabinet," Shepherd said in the order.
This is an apparent reference to the announcement earlier this year that United Co. Rusal, a Russian aluminum company, had decided to invest $200 million in return for a 40% stake in the roughly $1.7 billion aluminum rolling mill Braidy is working to build in Eastern Kentucky.
The economic development cabinet has the option to file a motion for injunctive relief within five days, which it plans to do, according to an agency spokesman.
That would mean the documents wouldn't be publicly released while the cabinet's motion is considered in court.
This case dates back to 2017, when Kentucky's state government became one of Braidy's earliest investors by making a $15 million contribution to the company.
The Courier Journal requested documents identifying Braidy's investors, but the cabinet withheld relevant records, citing privacy concerns and exemptions in the state open records law.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who beat Gov. Matt Bevin in last week's gubernatorial election by about 5,000 votes, determined the records should be disclosed. (Bevin hasn't conceded the race.)
The economic development cabinet took the matter to court, with The Courier Journal named as the defendant in the case. Braidy voluntarily identified several people as shareholders in December 2017, but that didn't put an end to the legal proceedings.
In 2018, Shepherd ruled the state can't legally withhold public records that identify Braidy shareholders. The cabinet appealed, and the appellate court largely upheld Shepherd's decision.
In its May 2019 ruling, the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed Shepherd's determination that the investors' names were subject to public release but reversed part of his decision that declared some other information in the records on Braidy had to be disclosed, as well.
The Kentucky Supreme Court decided not to review the case, so it ended up back in Shepherd's court, leading to the order he issued Tuesday.
Jack Mazurak, the spokesman for the economic development cabinet, made it clear that the state agency disagrees with Shepherd's latest decision.
"We believe today's ruling is not in conformance with the order previously issued by the Court of Appeals in this matter," he said Tuesday. "The Cabinet will be filing with the Court of Appeals for injunctive relief and we are confident the Court of Appeals will uphold its original order."