On a daily basis, the Journal-World uses information made available by the Kansas Open Records Act. Sometimes it’s a document from the Lawrence school district or a police report about a recent crime. Often this information is available informally after a brief phone call or e-mail, which makes it possible to quickly inform the public about important issues in Lawrence and the state.
But other information is more difficult to obtain, and while technically available to the general public, is costly, not easily accessible or simply never requested.
As a special recognition of Sunshine Week, a national journalistic initiative designed to improve access to governmental information, our reporters requested a variety of public records rarely seen by the general public. Some of what was found highlights a serious issue, such as data detailing hundreds of claims of sexual misconduct in Kansas prisons. Other records are more lighthearted, but nonetheless interesting, such as a handwritten note to a florist during KU’s chancellor search prohibiting purple flowers in an arrangement.
This week, we’ll publish our findings and detail how various agencies complied with the Open Records Act, all with the goal of shining a light on information that otherwise could remain in the dark.
Basic KORA guidelines
• Applies to most governmental agencies in Kansas, including city, county and state agencies.
• Anyone — not just a member of the media — can make a KORA request.
• Agencies can charge the requester for the costs of providing the information, which can include staffing hours and printing costs.
• Not all governmental records are available under KORA. Some examples of information exempt from KORA include ongoing criminal investigations, personnel records for government employees and adoption records.
• Federal agencies are not covered under KORA but are subject to similar requirements under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
KORA response guidelines
These are specific guidelines for how soon governmental entities are required to respond to KORA requests:
• Agencies are required to provide a response to a KORA request by the end of the third business day from the time it was received.
• If there is a delay in response, an agency is supposed to provide a detailed explanation.
• If an agency denies a KORA, it is required to provide a detailed legal summary of why the request was denied.
• If a violation of KORA occurs, the requester can file a civil lawsuit, as well as make a formal complaint to the Kansas Attorney General’s office.
• For more information about KORA, visit www.ksag.org/page/open-and-honest-government.