Transparency takes back seat in Brownback administration.
In his so-called "Road Map for Kansas," Gov. Sam Brownback said:
"Government should always be accountable to the people. Accountability begins with transparency. A Brownback Administration will work to ensure that the actions undertaken by the state government are clearly explained and grounded in the equal application of the law. ..."
While that sounded great, we've instead seen deliberate moves to keep Kansans in the dark.
The most recent example came in the governor's refusal to release the names of applicants for a new position on the Kansas Court of Appeals — even though names of candidates for the court and the state Supreme Court have been disclosed for decades in Kansas.
Another example saw the governor, in the midst of budget and tax-related negotiations this past legislative session, endorse private talks among top Republicans on those issues.
Kansans deserved better as the state wrangled with a severe budget shortfall. Strategies to address massive income-tax cuts and a resulting budget crunch should have been vetted in an open, transparent process.
Also recently, the Kansas Corporation Commission — with a majority of Brownback appointees — avoided holding a public vote to sharply increase water rates for rural Salina residents. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor filed a lawsuit against the KCC and its three commissioners individually for allegedly violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).
Of course, Taylor also was called on last year to investigate violations of KOMA by legislators who attended dinners hosted by Brownback at the governor's mansion. While the governor deemed the events social gatherings, he went too far in inviting select lawmakers to discuss public business in private.
Such private talks and negotiations only fuel skepticism at a time of growing distrust in government. In Topeka, they cast more suspicion on the dealings of Brownback and his ultraconservative Republican allies.
The governor vowed to run an open and accountable administration. Unfortunately, he's too often failed to practice what he preached.
The interest in secrecy suggests he has something to hide, and smacks of the kind of domineering behavior that should worry all Kansans.