National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Editorial: Open government

Creating a state-level unit to monitor open meetings and open records could vastly improve the state’s ability to enforce these important laws.

Spending about $160,000 a year to police compliance to the Kansas Open Meetings Act and Kansas Open Records Act would be a good investment for the state.

That is the estimated cost of creating a two-person unit within the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to handle complaints related to open meetings and open records. Legislation to create such a unit has been introduced in the Kansas House and has the support of the Kansas Association of Counties and the Kansas Press Association.

Enforcement of these important laws currently is spotty at best. If individuals or media organizations suspect that a government entity has violated the open meetings or open records law, they can take their complaint to a local district or county attorney or file a lawsuit. If the complaining party files a lawsuit, it also must be willing to pay the legal costs associated with that action. That makes it less likely that an individual — or many smaller media outlets — will pursue such an action. Complaints can be taken to a county or district attorney, but those officials may not have the time to investigate the complaint — or may be hesitant to pursue action against county officials who control their budgets. Continue>>>