Letters to the Editor

KOMA loophole

February 13, 2012


To the editor:

The Kansas Open Meeting Act’s problem is the hole that’s big enough to allow Earth to pass through that will always allow the “he said/she said” conundrum that’s under way. Of what do I write? KOMA’s allowance of unnoticed meetings of majorities of legislative bodies.

KOMA states that a meeting only occurs if it has the “purpose of discussing the business or affairs of the agency or body.” Who will (after the fact) decide the purpose of the meeting? And at what cost? We will soon learn. The Shawnee County district attorney (it’s noted in every story that he’s a Democrat but only once that he’s taking on this responsibility after consensus consultation with the Republican Kansas attorney general) is investigating. That must mean that Shawnee County will pay for this investigation, which is occurring because of the clear violation of the intent of KOMA by Brownback. Shouldn’t Brownback be personally billed for this investigation? And why should the DA be subject to the abuse that he will face no matter what his decisions are regarding prosecution of various individuals?

California’s similar Brown Act (enacted 1953) solves this problem easily. It states that a meeting “includes any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and place to hear (emphasis added), discuss, or deliberate upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.” Merely receiving information constitutes a meeting. When will Kansas come into compliance with this common-sense regulation that prohibits “smoke-filled-room” policymaking?


lawslady 5 years, 8 months ago

Your "fix" won't fix things. Because if everyone gets their stories straight, all they need to say is that there was NO discussion on "the affairs of the body." And there is an even bigger loophole in the KOMA, as it applies to legislative committees; they are allowed to exempt themselves from it by simply adopting that exception in their rules (which are adopted each time they start a new session). See K.S.A. 75-4318(a). www.kslegislature.org

Bottom line, if someone wants to violate the open government laws, they will figure out a way. People who know the KOMA (and care) will make requests for notice of the bodies they are interested in (or that they believe are violating the law). That helps tighten things up a bit. But the group can still lie about what was said, discussed, heard etc. Then, the only way to catch a violation is if there is 3rd party witness and/or one of the group "cracks" and tells the truth.

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