Sedgwick County misses opportunity to compel transparency

Sedgwick County Commission December 16, 2009Sedgwick County Commission

During today’s meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, commissioners awarded funds to an organization without requiring accountability and transparency.

At issue was the county awarding $50,000 to Visioneering Wichita. My testimony opposing this funding is at Visioneering Wichita should not receive public funds. In my testimony, I asked that if the commissioners decided to approve the funding, that compliance with the Kansas Open Records Act be a condition of the funding. Specifically, I asked that Visioneering Wichita would agree in writing that it is a public agency as defined in the KORA.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn made an amendment to the funding motion that did what I recommended. It died for lack of a second.

To my knowledge, no one has made a records request to Visioneering Wichita. I don’t know if anyone has plans to, and I don’t know what Visioneering Wichita’s response would be to a request. But several quasi-governmental organizations in Wichita — including one in a similar situation to Visioneering Wichita as far as parentage — have refused to comply with my records requests on the basis that they are not “public agencies” as defined in the KORA. This is despite the law’s clear language, and despite the fact that these organizations are wholly or nearly wholly funded by tax revenues.

In his presentation, Visioneering Wichita volunteer chairman Jon Rolph said his organization has been “very open and transparent.” But in questioning by Peterjohn, Rolph did not know the total budget of Visioneering, nor was he sure of its exact form of business organization, despite my same question having been submitted to Rolph several days ago.

When asked by Peterjohn if he considered Visioneering Wichita to be covered under the Kansas Open Records Act, Rolph said that Visioneering would probably fall under the category of public-private partnerships like the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC). (GWEDC recently refused to comply with a records request filed by me, although it is largely or entirely funded by taxes.) “But we want to be open, we have nothing to hide,” he said. But he said he’d have to check to see if the organization felt it was subject to the KORA.


4 thoughts on “Sedgwick County misses opportunity to compel transparency”

  1. KORA is there for when Rolph decides Visioneering doesn’t want to be open and friendly anymore because the requested information would be embarrassing to someone in the organization or the organization itself. Citizens not only have a lawful right to know what their government is doing, but a fundamental right to know based on the principles this country was founded on.

    No Kansan should depend on a city bureaucrat’s friendliness for their right to know what their government is doing.

  2. Remeber the Baby and bathwater saying. Warren and Avello are both stronger arena/downtown supporters than
    Welsheimer. I do agree with voting out Unruh. (See my related story elsewhere in this newletter).

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