|NMU||KANSAS||Freedom of Information||May 25, 2000|
Kansas record law given teeth with sanctions measure
- For the first time, Kansas officials who violate the public records law could face a $500 fine, and local prosecutor can subpoena records if access has been denied.
Government officials who violate the state’s open records law will be subject to a $500 fine under legislation signed into law by Gov. Bill Graves in mid-May.
Under the new law, fines are available only after the local prosecutor has filed suit against a government official who has wrongfully denied a request for public information. The law also gives local prosecutors the power to subpoena disputed records after a government official has denied a request for them.
The new law also mandates that the public records law’s 44 exemptions are to be eliminated on July 1, 2005, unless the Legislature votes to retain individual exemptions before then.
The state House voted 123-2 in favor of the measure, while the Senate approved it unanimously, 40-0.
The changes, which goes into effect July 1, were prompted by an audit conducted by 19 Kansas newspapers last year to measure how well local governments comply with requests for information under the public records law.
The audit found that while cities, schools and counties complied with almost all of the requests for public information, sheriff’s departments did so only 58 percent of the time. The audit also cited instances when sheriff’s department personnel intimidated or detained people who had requested public information.
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press