TOPEKA – (February 1, 2016) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has reorganized parts of his office that enforce the state’s open government laws.
With the start of 2016, Schmidt has separated the responsibility for enforcing open government laws from the responsibility for training and counseling to assist in compliance. Separating the two tasks, which historically have been combined, sets the stage for stepped-up enforcement of the Kansas Open Records Act and Kansas Open Meetings Act as well as increased training and outreach activities.
“Historically, the attorney general’s office has handled complaints about open government violations informally,” Schmidt said. “With the enactment of new open-government legislation in 2015, we now have a responsibility to be more structured in the handling of open-government complaints. This reorganization is the first step in that ongoing process.”
New legislation enacted last year gives the attorney general additional legal authority to investigate and enforce violations of the state’s open government laws. It also requires the attorney general to more actively develop training and outreach to help prevent violations.
“In the coming months, the attorney general’s office intends to step up our training and outreach to help prevent open government violations,” Schmidt said. “At the same time, we also intend to more thoroughly investigate credible allegations of violations and, when appropriate, take enforcement actions. The fact-finding that will sometimes be necessary under the new enforcement procedures will more closely resemble a traditional law enforcement investigation than have the informal lawyer-to-lawyer discussions that predominated in the past, and that transition will require some adjustment by everybody involved.”
Under the reorganization, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Mendoza will serve as director of open government enforcement and will lead the office’s investigation and enforcement actions in response to complaints. Assistant Attorney General Cheryl Whelan will serve as director of open government training and compliance.
More information on the attorney general’s open government enforcement and training work can be found at www.ag.ks.gov.