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Kansas Open Records Act

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The Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Kansas. Statutes 45-215 - 45-223 passed by the Kansas legislature define the law.

The Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Statutes 75-4317 - 75-4320 define the law.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Kansas FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and Kansas sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of lawsuits in Kansas (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).


Lawsuit Year
Cypress Media v. City of Overland Park 2000
Memorial Hospital Association Inc. v. Knutsen 1986
O'Hair v. USD 300 1990
State, ex rel. Stephen v. Harder 1982
State of Kansas v. USD 305 1988
State v. Sedgwick County Commissioners 1989
Stephens v. Van Arsdale 1980


Proposed changes

2011

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011


We do not currently have any legislation for Kansas in 2011.


2010

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010


We have no current bill pages for Kansas from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research.


2009

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009

Since 2000 an expiration date on new exemptions to KORA has been required. The exemptions can be renewed past the expiration date, but there must be a review first. In January 2009, the Kansas Senate was expected to begin debating Senate Bill 34 regarding extending the life of 30 exemptions to KORA during the session.[1][2]

In January 2009, the Kansas Senate gave first-round approval to SB 34 on a voice vote. SB 34 renewed 30 exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act. Don Moler, executive director of the League of Kansas Municipalities spoke in favor of the bill, saying, ""Every one of the exemptions that are in there are in there for a reason."

Kansas's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Kansas #18 in the nation with an overall percentage of 56.00%.[3]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Kansas 47 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 25 out of the 50 states.[4]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Kansas's law as the 34th worst in the country, giving it a letter grade of "D+."[5]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

Public records are addressed by Kansas statutes 45-215 - 45-223. The basis of the law states that it "is declared to be the public policy of the state that public records shall be open for inspection by any person."[6]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

The act defines public records as any records that are created or kept in public agencies and that pertain to the workings of the government.[7]

Exemptions

There are some important exception clauses. KORA 55-219.a exempts many non-print records from FOIA requests by stating that, "A public agency shall not be required to provide copies of radio or recording tapes or discs, video tapes or films, pictures, slides, graphics, illustrations or similar audio or visual items or devices, unless such items or devices were shown or played to a public meeting of the governing body thereof, but the public agency shall not be required to provide such items or devices which are copyrighted by a person other than the public agency."[8] Other exemptions include:[9]

  • Medical records
  • Personal records of employees, excluding contracts, salaries, names, and positions
  • Information concerning undercover agents
  • Letters of reference
  • Library records
  • Charitable donor information
  • Testing and exam materials
  • Criminal prosecution records and civili records involving the state, except where the records are deemed in the public interest and would not interfere with the trial or reveal confidential information
  • Security information
  • Correspondence between the state and individuals
  • Employer-Employee negotiations
  • Student financial information
  • Oil well information
  • "Notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed, except that this exemption shall not apply when such records are publicly cited or identified in an open meeting or in an agenda of an open meeting. "[9]
  • Work of attorneys representing the state
  • Correctional records
  • Prospective business information
  • Academic information and research
  • Archaeological information
  • University marketing information
  • Military discharge papers
  • Shelter information

KORA also establishes guidelines for considering adding exemptions to the current list. Any potential exemptions must either be of a "personal nature concerning individuals," be necessarily concealed for efficient governing or concern confidential information.[10]

In 2009 the Kansas legislature extended 30 exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act. This extension expires in 2014.[11]

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The Kansas ORA defines public agencies as any division of the state government and local government as well as any that is supported in part by public funds. The law, however, excludes any group that receives funds in exchange for property, goods or services; all judges, and any employee who is not given an office that is open at least 35 hours a week.[7] This includes non-profits that receive greater than $350 a year in public funds. If the non-profit segregates funds between public and private then only the budgets of public funds are available. If the organization does not segregate, then full budgets are open to public review.[12]

It is also important to note that if records request are made to an incorrect department, the department has the responsibility of notifying the individual as to the correct department to make the request.

Legislature

See also: Legislatures and transparency

The broad definition of public body found within the Kansas Open Records Act includes the state legislature.[7]

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-Kansas

The Kansas Open Records Act includes all agencies that receive public funding within its definition of public body.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material and student financial information are explicitly exempted under 45-221.

Who may request public records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Anyone may request public documents in Kansas. "All public records shall be open for inspection by any person."[13]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

While the law does not require an explicit statement of purpose, it does allow departments to reject records claims if it places "an unreasonable burden" on the department or if the department feels it is designed to disrupt the flow of the workings of government.[14]

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

KORA does not permit the use of lists of names and addresses for commercial purposes outside of political and educational opportunities and the use of student lists by university sales offices.[15]

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

Kansas statutes allow for three days to respond to a request. However, if the department feels it needs more time to complete the request, it may notify the person making the request in writing and provide the earliest possible date the records will be prepared.[16]

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

KORA allows for the charging of reasonable fees, which can include the cost of duplication, staff time spent supervising the copying, as well as fees for computer maintenance. Any fees that come out to less than $.25 a page are deemed reasonable; however, larger fees may be deemed reasonable in certain situations.[8]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

KORA permits charging for fees associated with the search and collection of records. However, these fees must be incorporated into the $.25 per page cap, except in circumstances and situations where the request is overly burdensome.[8]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

Under Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.) 45-228, the State Attorney General "or county or district attorney may:

  • (a) Subpoena witnesses, evidence, documents or other material;
  • (b) take testimony under oath;
  • (c) examine or cause to be examined any documentary material of whatever nature relevant to such alleged violations;
  • (d) require attendance during such examination of documentary material and take testimony under oath or acknowledgment in respect of any such documentary material; and
  • (e) serve interrogatories."[17]

Open meetings

See also: Kansas Open Meetings Act

Open Meetings are addressed by Kansas statutes 75-4317 - 75-4320. A meeting is defined as: "any gathering, assembly, telephone call or any other means of interactive communication by a majority of a quorum of the membership of a body or agency subject to this act for the purpose of discussing the business or affairs of the body or agency."[18].

KORA/KOMA training

In June 2009 Attorney General Six's office provided public training for KORA and KOMA in Dodge City, Olathe, Topeka and Wichita.

The contents of the CD given to participants of these training classes included several files, including the PowerPoint presentations given by Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Smith:

Criticisms

The act requires that government respond within three business days, but this is not always the case in practice. Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, a Kansas-based think tank, requested information from 105 counties and received fulfilled requests from only 67 counties.[19] Formal complaints filed with county attorneys were largely ignored.

The organization noted several loopholes for evading disclosure the act allows:

  • The 300 exemptions to the Open Records Act that the legislature has granted.[19]
  • The provision that permits government to reject a request that causes them to 'create' a record, meaning they don’t have to provide information unless it is maintained in the exact manner in which it is requested.[19]

See also

External links

References