Having covered city and county government in Chicago, I know what its like to get the runaround from government officials when trying to obtain records. The pesky Freedom of Information Act can really be a thorn in the side of people who don’t think information gathered and created to do the public’s business should be seen by the public.
Kansas and Missouri are no friends to sunshine advocates, as KCUR points out in a story that shows how the state governments delay, obfuscate and lollygag when it comes to releasing records. When it comes to openness, Missouri gets a C- from the Center for Public Integrity, and an F for access to information. Kansas gets a C for openness and C for access to information.
The story cites how costly it can be for ordinary citizens to pry information – court costs can be as high as $70,000 – how the Columbia-based National Freedom of Information Coalition is listed by the Missouri Attorney General’s office as the go-to folks for people who have problems accessing information.
“Right now private citizens almost can’t afford to litigate,” said Missouri Press Association counsel Jean Maneke.
Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, sums it up thusly, “I wish there was a mindset attitude with respect to public officials that recognized that the records and instruments of government really don’t belong to them. They really belong to the people they serve.”