News Columns & Blogs

Presumed Guilty: On second thought, some parole files are available

Investigative reporting often lingers for weeks simply trying to look at paperwork.

At least, that’s been the case with the Kansas Parole Board.

Two weeks after being denied access to Ronald Rhodes’ parole records, it turns out at least some of the files are available for inspection.

I received a letter this week from Michael Smith, the parole board’s lawyer. Smith said there were some 231 pages of records available. Included were some examples of what I might find.

Other sections of Rhodes’ file, however, were still closed, including letters from the public about whether he should have been released, which may have been talked about during the public hearings.

Smith cited a portion of the Kansas Open Records Act that allowed the parole board to close the records.

But in reading that law, it says agencies “shall not be required to disclose” the records. It doesn’t say they can’t.

I wrote Smith back, asking him to clarify the parole board’s choice not to release the records.

Meanwhile, more than 200 pages of files that were originally closed will now be open for inspection.

Reporting beyond the daily breaking news stories can be a long process, just to see the paperwork. And that’s before you even know if you’ll find anything helpful to a final report.