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Archive for Friday, March 25, 2005

House advances ‘Lew Perkins’ open records bill

March 25, 2005

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— Any public employee's total compensation must be fully disclosed under legislation before the House.

Before giving the measure first-round approval Thursday, the House amended the bill to require university professors to disclose consulting contracts with outside groups or companies.

Final action was expected Friday. The Senate approved the bill last month but would have to consider amendments added by the House, including the provision applying to professors.

House members also added language extending current exemptions to the Kansas Open Records Act for another five years and requiring local prosecutors to report to the attorney general's office all complaints about violations of the meetings law.

Various government records can be closed under 370 provisions of state law, including 46 in the Open Records Act. Under a 2000 law, those exceptions to the Open Records Act must be reviewed after five years. Any exception would be eliminated without legislative action to retain it.

As passed by the Senate, the bill was dubbed the "Lew Perkins Provision," after the University of Kansas athletic director, and said employment contracts or agreements must be disclosed, along with salaries.

In 2003, the Lawrence Journal-World asked the university to fully disclose Perkins' compensation package. The university refused and The World Company, which publishes the newspaper and operates cable television station 6News, filed a lawsuit last year to force disclosure. The Associated Press and the Kansas Press Association later joined the litigation.

Douglas County District Judge Jack Murphy ruled in September against the university, which then released the records. The documents included details of all of Perkins's compensation.

The records law requires disclosure of records of names, positions, salaries and lengths of service of public employees. However, it allows agencies to refuse to release personnel records, performance ratings or other "individually identifiable records" about employees.

The university and its Athletic Corporation argued the provision covered Perkins' records. Murphy disagreed, saying all compensation records for public employees are open, even documents detailing compensation from private sources.

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