Archive for Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Ruling’s excerpts show difficulty in defining Sebelius’ present role

January 7, 2003


— Excerpts from Shawnee County District Judge Eric Rosen's ruling in an open meetings lawsuit filed by 14 news organizations against Gov.-elect Kathleen Sebelius:

"In order to grant a temporary injunction, plaintiffs must show the court that there is a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits. Based upon the clear and unambiguous language of KOMA (the Kansas Open Meetings Act), the court finds plaintiffs cannot prevail on the merits.

"Plaintiffs have argued that, for the purposes of KOMA, Kathleen Sebelius is the equivalent of governor. Defendants contend that Ms. Sebelius is nothing more than a private citizen. The court finds little merit to either position.

"Kathleen Sebelius does not have any of the powers conveyed to the governor. She cannot sign legislation, utilize executive orders, or modify the state budget. However, by statute she is granted powers beyond that of a private citizen. She has the limited ability to use state office space, expend state funds, and utilize state employees ...

"For KOMA to apply, the BEST (Budget Efficiency Savings Team) teams must be either (1) a task force, an advisory committee, or a subcommittee created pursuant to a governor's executive order, or (2) a subordinate group of a legislative body, an administrative body, or an agency of the state.

"In 2001, the Kansas Legislature amended K.S.A. 75-4318(a) to add specific coverage for governors' task forces created by executive order ...

"With the passage of the 2001 amendment, KOMA was broadened to include groups, under the direction of the governor, that function in much the same capacity as the BEST teams.

"While plaintiffs have suggested Kathleen Sebelius is the equivalent of governor, that is a leap this court is unwilling to take. No matter how broadly interpreted, an incoming governor simply does not have the authority of a sitting governor."

The full text of the ruling is available online under "court decisions" at

The case is The Associated Press, et. al., vs. Kathleen Sebelius and the Governor-elect Transition Office, No. 02-C-1583.

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