Newspapers fight to open appointee list, marriage applications

Posted December 11, 2014

Newspapers in Kansas are fighting to obtain records on county commission candidates and on marriage license applications.

In Saline County, where voters approved increasing the number of county commissioners from three to five, the Salina Journal is fighting to obtain the names of the 13 citizens who have applied to fill the two new slots until the next election.

So far, however, the governor's office, which will make the decision, has declined to provide the names. The governor also kept secret the names of applicants for the most recent Kansas Court of Appeals opening.

In southeast Kansas, a number of newspapers in the 11th Judicial District are reporting that marriage license applications are now being sealed by the courts. It appears so far to be the only district sealing those records.

A court official there blamed the decision on the Office of Judicial Administration in Topeka, but no one there is aware of any advice being giving out on the subject.

The Kansas Press Association contacted Lisa Taylor of the OJA, who said she would look into the issue. She had not responded as of 3 p.m. today.

Ron Keefover, who recently retired from the position now held by Taylor, said the Kansas Supreme Court "has an administrative order in place making court records subject to KORA and setting forth procedures to obtain copies."

In Salina, publisher Olaf Frandsen has communicated by letter with the Kansas Attorney General's Office and the governor's office, pointing out the folly in keeping applicants' names private.

The letter read, in part: “Applicants for a publicly held office, by their nature, are a matter of public record. To withhold those applications would be tantamount to conducting an open public election, yet keeping the names of the candidates a secret until votes are counted.”