Session to focus on government transparency
Kansas Coalition for Open Government is leading a training seminar Monday about open records and meetings.
President Max Kautsch, a lawyer, will talk about the Kansas Open Records Act and Kansas Open Meetings Act, which apply to public bodies such as city councils, county commissions, and school boards.
“The best way for members of the public to be able to challenge or verify what the government tells them about matters of public concern, such as how taxpayer dollars are being spent on matters involving public safety, is to become familiar with the laws that require the government to share information in its possession,” Kautsch said. “The most crucial of those laws are the Kansas Open Records Act and the Kansas Open Meetings Act.”
Attendees will learn about government’s responsibilities to comply with the laws, what information should be available as a result of those laws, and consequences for ignoring or breaking those laws, Kautsch said.
“By the end of the presentation, attendees will have a good handle on how to make open records requests and monitor the actions of governing bodies at public meetings to ensure they are not keeping the public in the dark about matters of public concern,” he said.
Marion vice mayor Ruth Herbel requested training for the city, and Mayor David Mayfield agreed it would be beneficial.
“I think it’s very important that everybody follow procedures and do everything correctly,” Herbel said.
Council member Zach Collett suggested that Kansas League of Municipalities conduct the training, but Herbel pushed for the coalition to lead it.
She invited Hillsboro, county, Marion school district, and St. Luke Hospital district officials to attend.
“I think we’ll have about 20 people,” Herbel said Monday.
The public also is invited.
Several area public boards have violated the open meetings act by going into executive session without providing a short, plain statement about why. Marion City Council has done so, as have county commissioners, and area school boards.
St. Luke Hospital’s board met in executive session three times April 25, citing only an exemption to the open meetings law — attorney-client privilege. It did not say why it needed to meet. When it returned from its third 30-minute closed-door meeting, the board announced that hospital CEO Jeremy Ensey was resigning.
Ensey told a Record reporter who objected to the executive sessions that the board needed to meet for “confidential reasons.” Attorney-client privilege already implied that.
Not citing a reason is considered a technical violation of the open meetings law, commonly called KOMA.
The free training will start at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the basement of the community building at 208 E. Santa Fe St. in Marion.