SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas can avoid litigation if the governor’s office follows the state’s open records laws and releases the name of candidates seeking one of two new seats on the Saline County Commission, a newspaper publisher said this week.
The Salina Journal twice has requested the names of 13 applicants for one of the two seats, which were added Nov. 4 by voters who approved expansion of the county commission from three to five members.
Both requests — one verbal and the other in writing — were denied, with a spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback saying it was a personnel issue.
M. Olaf Frandsen, editor and publisher of The Salina Journal, didn’t accept that explanation.
“This could be resolved very simply without going to court,” Frandsen said Friday after his newspaper’s written request was denied. “But if the state wants to persist in withholding a record that is clearly in the public interest, then that’s what we will have to do.”
Brownback’s office interviewed applicants for the commission seats on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Journal faxed its written request to obtain the names on Tuesday.
Eileen Hawley, communications director for Brownback’s office, cited the “personnel records” section of the Kansas Open Records Act when denying the requests.
Frandsen said the applicants aren’t yet employed by Saline County or the state, thus they are not personnel. He also questioned how the names of applicants for a public position could be deemed an unwarranted invasion of privacy if state law considers the name, position and salary of every state and local government employee public record.
“Sadly the governor’s office is trying to keep secret the names of applicants for a political career and is ignoring the open records act,” he said.
The appointees are to assume office Jan. 12.
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