KPA says Brownback violated Open Meetings Act during dinners hosted at governor’s mansion

The Star reports that the Kansas Press Association is accusing Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback of violating the Open Meetings Act when legislators attending a dinner at the governor’s mansion discussed topics their committees deal with.

Two members of the House Appropriations Committee who attended a Cedar Crest dinner on Tuesday said a majority of that committee was present, and topics of discussion included taxes and the state budget.

Brownback’’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said dinners are not an open meetings violation.

“Social dinners hosted at Cedar Crest give the governor and legislators an opportunity to get to know one another away from the Statehouse,” she said in an emailed statement. “All 165 legislators and their spouses, regardless of their political affiliation, have been invited to join the governor and first lady for dinner last year and this year.”

But Mike Merriam, a Topeka attorney who represents the Kansas Press Association and the Capital-Journal, said the dinners appear to violate the law.

“The issue is whether a majority (of the committee) met and whether they were discussing government business,” Merriam said. “The specifics of the discussion are immaterial.”

House Speaker Mike O’Neal said social gatherings shouldn’t be considered government business, while Sen. Anthony Hensley said it wasn’t fair for the governor to invite members of certain legislative committees.

 

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