Two newspapers, AP sue governor over records

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback has been sued by three news organizations, including The Topeka Capital-Journal, after the governor refused to disclose the names of candidates seeking Brownback’s appointment to the expanded Saline County commission.

The Salina Journal newspaper and the Associated Press filed the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court on Friday, and The Capital-Journal joined the lawsuit on Saturday.

Nathanael W. Berg, a Salina lawyer, filed the lawsuit.

In November, Saline County voters overwhelmingly cast ballots to expand the county commission from three members to five, the lawsuit said. According to Kansas law, the governor then appoints commissioners to fill the two newly created posts until voters can cast ballots to elect commissioners in the next general election.

First the Salina Journal, then the Associated Press asked the governor’s office to identify the names of applicants seeking the two seats. The governor’s office refused, the lawsuit said, and the lawsuit was filed.

“The Capital-Journal has a long history of standing up for the First Amendment,” said Tomari Quinn, Capital-Journal editor and director of audience development, on Saturday. “We believe the governor’s office was incorrect in refusing to disclose the names of applicants for county commission seats, and we support our peers at the Salina Journal and The Associated Press in their quest for open government and transparency.”

The news organizations’ attempts to obtain the names of Saline County applicants for the two county commission slots surfaced after voters in that county voted on Nov. 4, 2014, to expand the commission.

Reprinted from Kansas Press This Week, Jan. 21, 2015, by the Kansas Press Association.

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