TOPEKA — Companies hired to administer a public hospital must comply with the Kansas Open Records Act, a court ruling affirmed.
The attorney general Monday praised the decision as a victory for Kansas government transparency.
The Kansas Supreme Court followed the Kansas Court of Appeals and Kiowa County District Court in declaring Great Plains of Kiowa County, hired to manage the county-owned hospital in Greensburg, was a public agency subject to KORA.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the Supreme Court concluded a KORA provision defined the instrumentality of a public agency to be a public agency itself.
"This decision will help give guidance in future disputes involving government instrumentalities, an area where judicial interpretation of the law had been absent," Schmidt said. "The decision favors openness and transparency, and we appreciate the guidance from the court, which confirms that our reading and application of the KORA has been correct."
The Supreme Court brought finality to years of legal feuding that began when the Kiowa County Commission, which levies a tax to support the hospital, questioned rising requests from Great Plains for greater subsidies to cover the cost of operations.
Great Plains claimed it wasn't a public entity subject to KORA and denied the commission's requests for documents about the hospital's budget and payment for management and professional fees.
In 2014, the commission filed a lawsuit in district court. Great Plains lost and was fined $500 for violating the state's records act. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's interpretation and declared delegation of operations to Great Plains didn't shield the county hospital's records from the public.