Topeka Responding to a request under the Kansas Open Records law, Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday refused to reveal the names of candidates for a position on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Last week, Brownback nominated his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to the second highest court in Kansas, saying that Stegall was the most qualified candidate.
But breaking with decades of practice, Brownback has refused to reveal the names of other applicants for the job.
The League of Women Voters of Kansas filed a request under the Open Records Act for the schedules of Brownback, Stegall, Chief of Staff Landon Fulmer, and the governor’s Appointments Director Kim Borchers from July 15 to Aug. 16 to try to find out who else was interviewed.
Brownback’s office released the schedules but redacted the names of those interviewed, citing an exemption in the Kansas Open Records Act.
That provision exempts from the law “personnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment, except that this exemption shall not apply to the names, positions, salaries or actual compensation employment contracts or employment-related contracts or agreements and lengths of service of officers and employees of public agencies once they are employed as such.”
Under a new law that was pushed for by Brownback and Stegall, the governor nominates Court of Appeals judges with Senate confirmation.
Under the former law, a nominating commission accepted applications, vetted applicants and conducted interviews before forwarding to the governor three names from which the governor selected.
The nominating commission had made public the names of those applying and those who made the final cut.
Brownback has said if he revealed the names of applicants, some potential applicants would shy away.
Dolores Furtado, the president of the Kansas chapter of the League of Women Voters, said she was disappointed that Brownback will not reveal the names of those who were interviewed.
“My goal is transparency,” Furtado said. “That is so important in the process that the government operates under. We are left with no comparisons, no way of knowing the quality of the applicants.”
She said that Brownback’s statement that Stegall was the most qualified “can’t be verified.”
She said Brownback’s administration “is among the most secretive in recent memory.”
Furtado said the League will try to inform people about the new process of selecting judges “so people can make informed decisions.”
The calendars provided in response to the League of Women Voters’ request showed interviews for judicial candidates took place, but no names are provided.
Stegall will face a Senate committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the start of a special session that was called to fix the state’s Hard 50 sentencing law for convicted murderers.