Topeka Under fire from advocates for open government, Gov. Sam Brownback's office on Tuesday said he will disclose the names of applicants for a new Kansas Court of Appeals position. But then minutes later the office said a decision on that issue hadn't been finalized yet.
Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for Brownback, said the furor over the governor's earlier decision to keep the names secret had become too much of a distraction.
"It became obvious the focus of attention was on the process rather than on selecting the best qualified person on the Court of Appeals," Hawley said.
But shortly afterward, Hawley contacted the Journal-World a second time and said that she had "gotten ahead" of herself, and a final decision hadn't yet been made.
She had said earlier that Brownback would announce the names of those who went through the application process on July 31, which is the deadline for applying. On that same date, he would announce the date that he would make his selection, she had said.
Hawley had said a decision has not been made on whether Brownback will reveal the names of applicants for future appellate positions.
A new law allows the governor to make appointments to the Kansas Court of Appeals with Senate confirmation. Previously, a statewide judicial nominating commission screened applicants and submitted the names of possible nominees to the governor. That commission had released the names of appellate court applicants since 1981 and in recent years had opened its interviews with applicants to the public.
Brownback's office had argued earlier that public accountability of his nominee would occur when the Senate holds an open hearing on his appointee.
A number of groups, however, said Brownback was making the selection process more closed off to the public after he and supporters of changing the selection method had complained that the former process was too secretive.
The League of Women Voters filed a request under the Kansas Open Records Act to get the names of those applying, but Brownback's office rejected the request, saying the documents requested were not subject to the Open Records law.