Open records and meetings in Kansas are in the news.
Today, the Wichita Eagle’s Brent Wistrom reports on training held by the Kansas Attorney General’s office. The story’s headline — Many Kansas officials fuzzy on open-government laws — gives one reporter’s opinion as to the recognition of open records law in Kansas.
I attended the same training event in Wichita that Wistrom did.
Separately, a column last week in the Topeka Capital-Journal (Group’s search for info shows open records act is weak) reports on the difficulty the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy had in their quest to obtain property appraisal data. Read Paul Soutar’s report at Kansas open records, not quite.
There was certainly a lot of criticism for the Flint Hills request which sounds like it was really an attack instead of an effort to gain information. Requests were not received, required creating records, which is not provided for, and requests for clarification received immediate threats of lawsuits by Flint Hills. Makes it seem like this was just another attack on our government and institutions.
I don’t know where you got your information, but where I come from asking the government to produce open records is never a burden. It’s my government and I could care less how important the info is. That’s for me to decide and not some government bureaucrat.
I got it from sitting three feet away from Bob in the training seminar and listening to the different records custodians from various locations complaining about their efforts to comply with an unclear, uncooperative request.
They wanted to provide the information, Flint Hills seemed to make it deliberately difficult for them to do so.
Which I don’t mean to focus on Flint Hills, although I am, the main point is everyone needs to learn more about our KORA and KOMA. Staff needs much more training. Legal needs to quit advising restrictive procedures. I want Flint Hills to keep asking but perhaps improving their requests.
That’s much more clear. If the request was confusing then I can understand having trouble complying, but from the press release I read from Flint Hills there were a number of counties that simply would not reply to Flint Hills, return a phone call or otherwise. Of course, there were many that complied fully and within a reasonable time frame, but then many others that didn’t. I personally don’t understand how many counties can comply quickly without incidence while others won’t even communicate to find out what they can do to get the information requested into Flint Hills hands. I doubt the request varied from county to county, so why are some able to comply while others claim the request was confusing?
I understand that many local governments said that the information FH requested couldn’t be produced by their particular computer system the state mandates they use, but FH claims that they had a program update that would have produced the data they wanted and many local governments simply refused to pursue the update to supply the requested info. So perhaps there’s is a bit of blame on both sides, but I will always go back to wondering how one local government can comply quickly while others drag their feet.
I know FH’s request seemed like a lot, but Kansas doesn’t exactly make it easy for the average person to get financial information about our government. School systems for example use all kinds of different accounting practices across the state that makes it virtually impossible to compare spending between two districts that are right next to each other. I was under the impression that was just the kind of info FH was looking for, only in relation to property taxes. It’s info I’d like to digest, and while it may be a burden for local units of government to comply this one time, if they would learn in the process how to be more responsive to these requests it won’t be such a burden the next time someone asks for public information. I get the impression county bureaucrats think that just because no one has asked for the info in the past that means they don’t have to produce it if someone wants it in the future. That simply isn’t the case.