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Archive for Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Open door

April 5, 2005

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Kansas legislators deserve credit for working to keep state government open to public scrutiny.

The Kansas Legislature has been the target of considerable criticism in the 2005 session, but it deserves some applause for two actions aimed at making government more open to public scrutiny.

Perhaps the most significant step in that direction was approval of a bill that will require public employees' total compensation packages to be open to the public. The bill grew out of a request by the Journal-World for disclosure of Kansas University Athletic Director Lew Perkins' full compensation package. KU officials denied the request, saying the compensation package was covered under one of the 46 exceptions to the Kansas Open Records Act.

A Douglas County district judge decided otherwise after the World Company filed a lawsuit that also was joined by the Associated Press and the Kansas Press Assn. Following the judge's ruling, state press organizations sought legislation to make clear that employment contracts, as well as salaries, of public employees are open to the public.

The Legislature's other major boost for open government came from a measure that will require local prosecutors to report to the Kansas Attorney General's Office all complaints concerning violations of the state's open records and open meetings laws. The reporting will allow state officials, as well as media organizations, to monitor complaints and identify areas in which new laws or better enforcement of existing laws are needed.

Around the world, government trust usually rises and falls in direct proportion to government openness. Kansans should be pleased to see legislators protecting and expanding the openness of Kansas government.

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