This May Be the Most Secretive State in the Nation
'Kansas City Star' explores the state's unusually tight-lipped bureaucracy
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2017 8:05 AM CST
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The Kansas Statehouse, in Topeka.   (Getty/Pike Online)

(Newser) – Kansas doesn't just try to manage the flow of information to the public about government doings, it throttles it. After a months-long investigation, the Kansas City Star concludes that Kansas "runs one of the most secretive state governments in the nation." The newspaper finds that this lack of transparency has gotten worse under the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback, but that it goes back much further and permeates not only the governor's office but state agencies of all sizes, along with the state House and Senate. The story opens with an anecdote about a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation getting fired after telling reporters that a particularly deadly stretch of highway could not be remedied because no funds existed for the work.

The employee learned the lesson that "the state of Kansas doesn't discuss public business with Kansans," per the Star. The story runs through example after example: 90% of laws passed by the Kansas Legislature come from anonymous authors, a practice disallowed in most states; the children's services department goes to extremes to shield its involvement in abuse cases, to the point of shredding notes so they can't turn up in public-records requests, according to a former official; police departments are allowed to provide scant details on cases, including withholding bodycam footage. And much more. All together, the examples "form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government." Click for the full story, which also chronicles the unsuccessful efforts of critics to make the state more open.

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