State employee e-mails sent from private accounts not subject to the Kansas Open Records Act

(KSNT Photo File Photo)

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansas state employees who send information related to state programs, functions, activities or operations from their private e-mail accounts do not fall under provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).

The ruling comes after Senate Democratic Minority Leader Anthony Hensley questioned the legality of state Budget Director Shawn Sullivan’s actions in December. Sullivan came under criticism after it was learned he sent advance copies of Governor Sam Brownback’s proposed 2014-15 budget cuts and 2015-16 budget to lobbyists to solicit their opinions on the proposals using his personal e-mail account.

In making his decision, which was released Tuesday, Schmidt says that state employees can not be considered a public agency and therefor don’t fall under the provisions of KORA.

“Accordingly,” concludes Schmidt “these private emails of state employees are not public records subject to the provisions of the KORA.”

The act requires agencies or government-funded entities to make their records available to the public, though it contains dozens of exceptions.

 

Some have lawmakers have questioned whether the state needs to change existing law to include any e-mail regarding state business sent by state employees thru private accounts.

communication is king — there’s one glaring omission.

“Our Open Records Act is silent on the use of private emails to do public business. That’s wrong,” Rep. Jim Ward, (D) of Wichita told KSNT News back in March..

It’s an issue public officials nationwide are dealing with, what is included in the public record and what’s not?

The rules surrounding that are so unclear many first time officials say they don’t know what’s right.

“It was a horrible stress and after that year I eliminated having a state computer,” recalls Rep. Barbara Bollier, (R) of Mission Hills.

Ward attempted to get changes to the KORA and state policy, his bill died in committee early this legislative session.

 

 

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