Don’t use private e-mail accounts to conduct government business. And don’t give lobbyists insider access and information.
State budget director Shawn Sullivan ignored both of these commonsense principles of open government when he sent a working version of the governor’s proposed state budget to several top administration officials and two lobbyists.
Sullivan sent the budget from his private e-mail account, and it went to the private e-mail accounts of most of the recipients.
Sullivan said he used the private e-mail accounts because he and other administration officials were at their homes for the Christmas break. It wasn’t an attempt to circumvent state open-records laws, he contended.
Why did the two lobbyists, both former Brownback administration officials, have input into the budget process before most lawmakers saw the plan? Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman, said, “We sought the counsel of a lot of people in that process.”
Hawley also denied that the use of personal e-mails had any connection to The Eagle’s filing of an open-records request in October for e-mail correspondence and phone communication between the Governor’s Office and one of the lobbyists, David Kensinger. Last April, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Kensinger was the subject of a federal probe for influence peddling at the Capitol.
Hawley and Sullivan would not directly tell The Eagle how often the governor’s staff used private e-mails for public business.
Even if Sullivan didn’t deliberately try to circumvent the law, he should have known that it would look that way.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee