Kansas Freedom of Information Act
What is the Kansas Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that allows individuals to request access to public records that are maintained by the public agencies of a federal or state government. The Kansas Freedom of Information Act is referred to as the Kansas Open Records Act. It was enacted in 1984. Pursuant to the Kansas Open Records Act, individuals can view and make copies of public records maintained by public agencies in the state upon request. However, only partial disclosure is permitted for some records because they contain sensitive information and full disclosure may jeopardize the safety of the records' subjects or violate their privacy rights. Since the enactment of the Kansas Open Records Act, it has been amended multiple times to add more exemptions to the law, as recorded in Kansas Open Records Act Section 45-221.
What is Covered Under the Kansas Freedom of Information Act?
The Kansas Open Records Act covers all public records in the state. Under Section 45-217 of the Kansas Open Records Act, public records are defined as all recorded information, generated and maintained by public agencies and officers of these public agencies in the state. Public agencies in Kansas include state or political or taxing subdivisions or agencies and entities funded partially or wholly by the state. Examples of records covered under the Kansas Open Records Act are arrest reports, non-confidential court records, and criminal records.
What Records are Exempt from the Freedom of Information Act in Kansas?
According to Section 45-221 of the Kansas Open Records Act, records that contain sensitive and private information are not available to the public to protect the privacy rights of the records' subjects. Some records are also exempted because access to them is prohibited or restricted by federal law, state statute, rule of the Kansas Supreme Court, or rule of the senate committee. Records that are exempt from the Kansas Open Records Act include, but are not limited to:
- Personnel information of public employees
- Medical treatment records
- Records protected by attorney-client privilege
- Records of security or emergency information or public agency procedures, if disclosure would compromise public safety; examples are records of cybersecurity plans, cybersecurity assessments, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities
- Records closed by the rules of evidence
- Sealed bids and related documents, until the bids are accepted or rejected
- Plans, drawings, designs, or specifications that are the property of a private person prepared by a person other than a staff of a public body
- Specifications for competitive bidding, until the public agency officially approves the specifications
- Financial information presented by contractors in qualification statements to any public agency
- Records that constitute or represent the work of an attorney
- Information that would disclose the precise location of an archeological site
- Records of a utility or other public service concerning individually identifiable residential customers of the utility or service
- Documents containing personal information compiled for census purposes
- Certain software programs for electronic data processing and documentation
- Information that would disclose the location of a shelter or a safe house where individuals are secured from abuse, or the name, address, or contact information of alleged victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault
Records that are exempted from the Kansas Open Records Act may only be accessed if access is authorized by a court order or by a provision of the state statute.
How Do I File a Kansas Freedom of Information Act Request?
Anyone can access a public record in Kansas by submitting a written request or a completed request form (if this is available) to the specific public agency in charge of the record. A written request should include the applicant's details (name, address, and contact information) and a specific description of the requested record. Requesters may also be required to provide proof of their identities during the requests.
Kansas does not have a central agency that maintains all public records. Therefore, requesters may visit the official websites of the public agencies in charge of the records they are interested in to get their addresses and contact information. Requesters can find the website links and contact information of major agencies in Kansas on the Government of Kansas' website. Typically, most agencies accept in-person and mail requests. Where a request fee will be required, an applicant must pay the fee at the same time the request is submitted.
Custodian of Records
Kansas Corporation Commission
1500 Southwest Arrowhead Road
Topeka, KS 66604-4027
What is the Cost of a Freedom of Information Act Request in Kansas?
The Kansas Open Records Act does not specify an exact fee that public agencies must charge for record requests. However, the law requires that public agencies charge reasonable fees, which means that the fees must not exceed the actual costs incurred in providing the requested records. The fee schedule for some public agencies in Kansas is described below.
The Kansas Secretary of State does not charge a fee if a requester submits one record request for a record that is less than 25 pages or that can be provided within one hour of staff time. However, records that contain more than 25 pages and require more than one hour of staff time to process are charged at 25 cents per page for paper copies and 12.5 cents per page for electronic copies. Mailing costs include 50 cents for the first 5 pages and 25 cents for additional 5-page increments for paper copies. The fee charged for staff time is determined by the payment rate for each person who responds to a specific request or assists with it. The fee schedule for staff time is as follows:
- Clerical time - $18 per hour
- Attorney time - $35 per hour
- Information Technology services - $38 per hour
- Time for other categories of employees will be charged based on actual costs
The required fees may be paid by check or money order addressed to the Office of the Secretary of State.
The Kansas Office of the Governor does not charge any fee for copying the first 100 pages of any public record requested by a Kansas resident. However, prepaid fees may be required if the requested public records are voluminous, difficult to locate, or contain a mix of both open and closed information. If the agency requires prepaid fees, the following rates will apply:
- Copying fee - 25 cents per page after the first 100 pages, additional fees of 50 cents for the first five pages sent by mail, and 5 cents for each additional mailed page
- The staff time fee is determined by the time spent accessing, identifying, reviewing, redacting, copying, or organizing responsive or potentially responsive records. The fees are as follows:
- Clerical Services - $18 per hour
- Information Technology - $38 per hour
- Attorney Services - $50 per hour
- Time for other staff will be charged at the payment rate for each staff who spends their time responding to your request
How Long Does it Take to Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request in Kansas?
According to Section 45-218 (d) of the Kansas Open Records Act, a public agency is required to respond to a request for a public record within three business days following the date that the request was received. If a public agency or record custodian cannot grant a public record request within the specified time frame, they shall give a detailed explanation of the cause for the delay. The detailed explanation shall include the place and earliest time and date that the record will be available for inspection. Some of the reasons public agencies may require additional time to process record requests are voluminous records, complicated request parameters, unresolved legal issues, or difficulty accessing archived records.
A requester may file a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General's Office to contest a denied record request or if the public agency in charge of the record fails to respond within the stipulated time. If a public record request is denied, the record custodian of the public agency shall provide the requester with a written statement of the grounds for denial before the end of the third business day following the date that the request was made. The statement shall cite the specific provision of law under which access is denied. The contact details of the Kansas Attorney General Office is as follows:
120 Southwest 10th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: (785) 296-2215 or (888) 428-8436
Fax: (785) 296-6296