AG seeks guidance on KORA cost guidelines

Posted May 26, 2020

The Kansas 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.

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.

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 attorney general’s office 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 attorney general’s office considers when reviewing the reasonableness of fees charged for staff time.

Open government advocates including the Kansas Press Association, Kansas Association of Broadcasters, Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government and the Kansas Institute for Government Transparency said on first glance the guidelines are a significant step forward, but they will be reviewing them and preparing comments, which the AG’s office will be receive until close of business June 19, 2020.

“We view these guidelines as a positive step for open government in Kansas while potentially resolving possible records fee disputes before they arise,” said the Sunshine Coalition’s Ron Keefover on behalf of all four groups.

He is drafting a letter on behalf of those groups to be sent to the attorney general.