Public Records Law in the State of Kansas, Data Security
The Kansas Open Records Act or KORA for short refers to a series of laws that were enacted for the purpose of guaranteeing that citizens of the state had the right to access the public records of government bodies at all levels. The first law was passed in 1984, and the law was amended most recently in 2009, when the law was changed to create an expiration date regarding the specific public records that were exempt from disclosure under the law. Subsequently, the Kansas Open Records Act outlines the steps and procedures that citizens of the state must follow when looking to request access to the public records of their governing bodies and institutions, as well as the obligations that said bodies and institutions have in terms of ensuring that public records are available for access.
How is a public agency defined under the law?
Under the Kansas Open Records Act, a public agency is defined as “the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any other entity receiving or expending and supported in whole or in part by the public funds appropriated by the state or by public funds of any political or taxing subdivision of the state.” Conversely, the law defines a public record as “any recorded information, regardless of form or characteristics, which is made, maintained or kept by or is in the possession of any public agency including, but not limited to, an agreement in settlement of litigation involving the Kansas public employees retirement system and the investment of moneys of the fund.”
What are the requirements of public agencies under the law?
The requirements of public agencies under the Kansas Open Records Act as it concerns the accessibility of the public records of said agencies include but are not limited to:
- Public agencies must ensure that individuals can access their public records during the regular business hours of said agencies.
- Public agencies have an obligation to respond to a request to access their public records as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the third business day following the day upon which a request was received.
- Public agencies are permitted to charge a person reasonable fees to inspect and copy the public records of said agencies, subject to certain restrictions. For context, the law states that a fee lesser or equal to $.25 for each copied page of a public record is deemed to be reasonable.
- Public agencies are permitted to refuse access to their public records, if said agencies have reason to believe that the request is intended to disrupt the essential functions of a given public agency.
- Public agencies may charge a requestor an advanced payment of a fee to access, inspect, or copy their public records.
- Public agencies are responsible for providing requestors with the information needed to request access to their public records, including the title and address of a public agency’s records custodian, as well as the agency’s regular office hours, among other pertinent information.
What public records are exempt from disclosure under the law?
The Kansas Open Records Act mandates that certain public records, such as criminal investigations records, as well as test examinations and materials in relation to professional licensure within the state of Kanas, are exempt from disclosure to the general public. With this being said, some further examples of public records that are exempt from disclosure under the law include:
- Public records detailing the emergency or security procedures of a public agency.
- Public records regarding employer-employee negotiations.
- Public records that are compiled for census or research purposes.
- Sealed bids and related documentation, until a particular bid has been accepted, or all other bids have been rejected.
- Library circulation and patron records that contain personally identifiable information.
- Medical, psychological, or psychiatric records.
- Public records that must remain confidential under another state or federal law.
- Public records that represent the work product of an attorney or their client.
- Architectural and engineering estimates made for or by a public agency with respect to public improvements.
- Public records that would reveal the precise location of an archeological site within the state of Kansas.
What are the penalties for violating the law?
The provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act are enforced by the Kansas state attorney general. To this point, public agencies and government institutions that fail to adhere to the provisions set forth in the law are subject to a wide range of punishments. Most notably, a public agency within Kansas that is found to be in violation of the law is subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 per violation, as well as reasonable attorney fees and associated costs. What’s more, the law also permits the attorney general to impose an injunction, mandamus, or another appropriate remedy against public agencies that fail to comply with the law.
The sections of the Kansas Open Records Act grant citizens of the state access to the public records of public agencies across said state. Through the provisions of the law, said citizens have one means by which they can gain a better understanding of the manner in which their taxpayer dollars are being spent. While no public record access law will ever be perfect, such legislation serves as one of the foremost means by which the average American citizen can work to hold their elected officials accountable for their deeds and actions, as these elected officials are charged with representing the political interests of the constituents they have been elected to serve.