Politics & Government

Bill to speed up open-records disputes

Gov. Sam Brownback signed legislation Friday that will make it easier for Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate and resolve violations of the state’s open records and open meetings laws.

HB 2256, which was crafted by Schmidt’s office, enables the attorney general to determine whether a public agency has failed to follow the state’s open records and open meeting laws and either impose a penalty or enter into a consent order without the need of court action.

The attorney general could impose a civil penalty of $500 and require training for agencies found in violation. The legislation is meant to speed up the process of resolving open records disputes and save money by resolving matters out of court.

Penalties by agencies would go toward an open government fund, which will help pay for the attorney general’s open government investigations.

The bill’s signing comes the same month that the attorney general has recommended a larger change to the state’s open records law, which would make private e-mails from public officials subject to the law if they pertain to official business.

That recommendation was prompted by The Eagle’s reporting on the use of private e-mail by the Brownback administration to conduct official business.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.