- Associated Press - Sunday, June 3, 2018

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has refused to disclose how much it paid to settle a whistleblower lawsuit, citing a new policy that exempts it from open records laws in Kansas and Missouri.

The Kansas City Star says the transit agency has denied its request for payment information about the 2016 lawsuit. According to the policy adopted in January, the agency may withhold records and close meetings at its discretion.

The agency operates regular bus and para-transit services under contract with local governments on both sides of the state line. The agency says that because it operates in both states, it isn’t bound by a state’s open records law.

An internal investigation found that Kansas City’s RideKC bus system employees were stealing parts, tools and supplies. The transit authority’s former human resources director, Jimmy Fight, raised the issue to the system’s CEO, Robbie Makinen. Fight filed a lawsuit in 2016 that alleged that he was fired for raising the issue. The case was settled in three months for an undisclosed cash payment.

First Amendment lawyer Mark Johnson called the policy “disingenuous,” saying settlement amounts paid out by governmental agencies are matters of public record in both states.

“Not releasing the information is certainly inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of the open records laws in both Missouri and Kansas,” said Johnson, who is with the Dentons law firm in Kansas City.

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