December 18, 2014

EDITORIAL: DA opinion strengthens Open Meetings law

This is good news.

Clicking “reply to all” to an email can constitute a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The word comes from the Shawnee County District Attorney who determined that a member of the Kansas State Board of Education technically violated KOMA when responding “reply to all” to an email sent from the board’s attorney to members.

Public officials are sure to bemoan the latest KOMA violation saying it hinders a board’s ability to conduct business efficiently. And while we do agree that replying to a mass email is often times the most efficient way to transmit information, we worry that public bodies are beginning to do much of their critical research behind closed doors.

They do this in a variety of ways. For example, a board member asks a question that staff is unable to answer during an open meeting. The staff member promises to relay the information to the entire body via email at a later time.

While doing so shortens the length of meetings, it also takes much of the crucial research process out of view of the public. Of course, the curious can request access to those emails, but many of those open records requests are met with a fee and other hardships.

As much as possible, research gathering and information should be done in wide view of the public. Courtesy of the Shawnee County District Attorney, we all get a fresh reminder that the things that transpire between a quorum of a governing body belong in the sunshine.

Comments

  1. Again, I will say that ALL GARDNER CITY MEETINGS should be videotaped and placed on the city’s website so ALL citizens may attend those meetings by tuning in at their convenience. And ALL business and questions should be asked during the open forums so there will be a record of the answers and so ALL get the same answer. Open meetings mean just that – open communication to the citizens and it helps when then the communication is based on honesty and the truth instead of half truths, not being forthcoming or have the conniving and manipulation involved. Our city has a long way to go until it reaches the point of where it should be – some people’s feet need to be held to the fire in my opinion.

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