TOPEKA – (May 19, 2020) – The attorney general’s office is inviting public comments on proposed new guidance for enforcing the Kansas Open Records Act requirement that the cost of staff time charged for responding to open records requests be reasonable, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
The KORA allows public agencies to charge reasonable fees for staff time to respond to open records requests, but it does not define what constitutes “reasonable” fees. To help provide certainty to both public agencies and people who request records, the attorney general’s office is proposing to publish formal guidance on how it will approach disputes about whether staff-time fees are reasonable.
“We think this approach can help everybody know what to expect and to follow the law,” Schmidt said. “Our experience has been that most violations of the KORA occur from lack of knowledge, and in areas where the statute is somewhat vague – such as what constitutes ‘reasonable’ costs for staff time – everybody will benefit from having clearer expectations.”
The proposed guidance:
- Establishes presumptively reasonable rates for various categories of staff needed to respond to a records request, such as attorneys, information technology staff and clerical staff. The proposed rates are the ones currently used by the Office of the Attorney General to respond to records requests.
- Recommends use of the least-cost category of staff necessary to perform any task necessary to respond to a request.
- Sets forth best practices that, if followed, will tend to demonstrate that a charge for staff time was reasonable.
- Outlines additional factors the Office of the Attorney General considers when reviewing the reasonableness of fees charged for staff time.
Any interested person may review a draft of the proposed guidance document at www.ag.ks.gov/open-government. Comments may be submitted via the website or by U.S. mail to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, 120 SW 10th Ave., 2nd Floor, Topeka, KS 66612. Comments will be received until close of business June 19, 2020. The comments then will be reviewed and considered by the Office of Attorney General before proceeding to publish the guidance.