Posts Tagged ‘Mike Merriam’

Kansas Board of Regents perform audio, then claim exemption from Kansas Open Records Act

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Richard Gannon’s Liberty Sentinel:

PATRICK HENRY ONCE SAID THAT LIBERTY IS NEVER SECURE AS LONG AS GOVERNMENT DOES BUSINESS IN SECRET.

Unfortunately, events do occur in Kansas that our Founding Fathers would deem unacceptable. So, from time to time, you will be receiving “The Liberty Sentinel,” an article about open government that may be of interest to you. If you have questions regarding the following information, please contact the contributing newspaper or Kansas Press Association at rgannon@kspress.com.

The Liberty Sentinel

Regents won’t release KSU audit
Board says it’s exempt from open-records law

(The Manhattan Mercury – by Sarah Nightingale)
The Kansas Board of Regents has declined to release the findings of an audit it commissioned to mark the transition of Kansas State University presidents, claiming an exemption to the state’s open-records law.

The Manhattan Mercury filed a formal request for the audit last month. According to a May 12 response, the Board conducted a “2009 exit analysis of Kansas State University President Jon Wefald focusing on certain non-state accounts administered or controlled by the President or his direct subordinates.”

The Regents, however, said the findings of the study are off limits.

This is believed to be the first time the Regents have conducted such an audit, though the new practice will mean similar audits of outgoing Kansas University chancellor Robert Hemenway and president of Pittsburg State University Tom Bryant.

According to Board of Regents attorney Theresa Marcel-Bush, the exit analysis is considered confidential because it “addresses the President’s handling of certain non-state funded accounts, a matter involving an employee of the Board acting within the scope of that employment.”

State law says that “public records shall be open for inspection by any person…and this act shall be liberally construed and applied to promote such policy.” But the law also allows for a long list of exemptions. The one claimed by the Regents in this matter is for “personnel records, performance ratings or individually identifiable records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment…”

Mike Merriam, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association, contended in an interview Wednesday that the Regents’ logic was flawed.

“This is not a personnel matter,” he said. “This is examining policy considerations, funding sources, things like that. The purpose of the exemption is to protect the privacy interests of the employee…But this has nothing to do with Wefald’s privacy.”

…..

Records showed bills from Grant Thornton amounting to almost $126,000. It was not immediately clear if that was the total cost of the audit.

While the audit was not released, certain pieces of information have become public as a result of it. KSU officials disclosed to the Mercury in February documents related to overload payments authorized by Wefald to Bob Krause, the vice president for institutional advancement and athletics director, for his work related to athletics. Those payments totaled nearly $250,000, from 2001 to 2008. Records related to those payments were uncovered in the process, officials said.

Do you have an Open Government experience to share? E-mail it to rgannon@kspress.com

Star covers open meetings issue at JCCC

Monday, March 9th, 2009

A more-or-less fair article by Jim Sullinger.  The article doesn’t make absolutely clear that Trustee Benjamin Hodge did not ask for budget detail during executive session.  It says: “Shortly before Calaway’s job performance evaluation, trustee Benjamin Hodge asked Calaway how he would address the declining revenue picture without raising taxes.”  In actuality, it was days before that Hodge had asked for detail on budget plans.

The story became a larger issue after JCCC President Dr. Terry Calaway criticized Hodge for releasing budget information, criticized Sullinger’s reporting, and attempted to publicly justify a very broad — some say illegal — interpretation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Mike Merriam, an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and an expert on the open meetings act, said Friday that bringing up the budget material under the personnel exception was inappropriate in his opinion.

“These budget issues should not have been discussed as part of the evaluation,” he said, adding that the topics should have been handled separately.

The Kansas attorney general has said that meetings can be closed to discuss personnel only when the discussion applies to individuals, rather than groups that might be affected by a policy.

One week after the meeting, Hodge released the list at the request of a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Its existence and some of its contents were reported in the Prime Buzz section of the newspaper’s Web site.

Calaway then sent an e-mail to the college staff criticizing the release of the list.

Hodge said the list focused on pending budget issues and should be shared with the public.