- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - With time running out to fill two newly created positions on the Saline County Commission, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s office continues to refuse to reveal the names of those being considered.

Saline County voters in November chose to expand the county commission from three members to five. Under state law, Brownback must appoint people to fill the new posts - which will make up 40 percent of the governing body - within 30 days from the time the new districts were certified.

Those districts were certified Nov. 28, The Salina Journal (https://bit.ly/1z4u1lz ) reported.

Earlier this week, Brownback’s press secretary rejected the newspaper’s request for candidate names for the third time, prompting the Journal to hire an attorney and start looking at further actions to obtain what it believes is a public record.

Press secretary Eileen Hawley told the newspaper Brownback doesn’t have to reveal the names under a personnel exemption in the state’s open records law because the candidates are applying for a job.

“Yes, they are applicants for employment - as public officials who are responsible for setting tax rates, for spending taxpayer money, who have ultimate authority over funds that are entrusted to them by the taxpayers of Saline County,” Journal Editor and Publisher M. Olaf Frandsen said. “It is a laughably absurd argument that those applications need to be secret.”

It’s possible there may be more than 13 candidates, he said, but Hawley hasn’t responded to phone calls seeking to confirm the number.

A message left Wednesday by The Associated Press on Hawley’s cellphone wasn’t immediately returned.

At least four potential candidates for the commission posts have come forward, and Frandsen is encouraging the rest to also identify themselves.

“It would be absolutely awesome if the other nine would give us a call and tell us who they are so we could let the public know, despite the veil of secrecy the governor seems to want to engage,” he said.

Brownback interviewed candidates three days last week and is expected to announce the new commissioners within the next nine days. Frandsen said he believes Brownback will keep the names secret until the appointments are made.

“After he releases the names, the governor will probably think it’s a moot point who the other applicants were,” Frandsen said. “I am declaring it’s anything but a moot point. I want to know who he picked from, and I don’t care if it takes me six months to get a judgment in favor of releasing those names. I will continue to press for releasing those names for as long as it takes.”

The publisher said he has the backing of Bruce Buchanan, president of Harris Enterprises, which owns the Journal.


Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, https://www.salina.com

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