The City of Frontenac continues to delay and refuse to hand over documents relevant to the decision in September of last year to fire the top three officials in the city.
The most recent refusal to comply involves documenting the proper charge allowed by state law for fulfilling Open Records requests.
The Kansas Open Records Act, or KORA, allows local governments to charge “reasonable fees” for the production of records, however, it also says specifically that “… the fees shall not exceed the actual cost of furnishing copies, including the cost of staff time required to make the information available.”
In response to being told the fee for producing records related to the September firings was $900, the Sentinel sent subsequent records requests attempting to determine the actual cost of the records.
Angermayer has maintained the rate is $25 per hour, responding, “The pay rate for employees engaged in responding to previous records requests in order to determine validity of stated charges [will be $25].” Angermayer sent a copy of the city ordinance which the city claims allows them to charge $25 per hour.
Dave Trabert, CEO of Kansas Policy Institute, says he’s filed dozens of Open Record requests and has consulted often with the Attorney General’s office dealing with the cost issue.
“The Attorney General’s office and county attorneys have consistently said government entities can only charge for the hourly rate of the employee fulfilling the request; they cannot make up their own hourly rate,” said Trabert.
The Sentinel then sent a subsequent request asking for “The standard non-KORA pay rate for employees involved in fulfilling the records request … when such persons are not engaged in KORA-related duties.”
Angermayer didn’t provide that requested information, responding instead by citing the ordinance and saying that the city administrator, city clerk and city attorney would be involved and their pay rates as $75,000 to $95,000, $50,000 to $75,000 and $70,000 a year respectively.’
The Sentinel, through the Kansas Policy Institute, which owns the Sentinel, has now requested the entire City of Frontenac’s 2019 payroll listing and will publish it.
On Sept. 16, 2019, the Frontenac City Council without warning, discussion, or so much as an executive session fired then-City Administrator Brad Reams, City Clerk Terri Kutz, and City Attorney Tim Fielder.
Then, according to the Kansas City Star, reinstated an employee who had been fired for failing a drug test — with a promotion.
Shortly after that the Pittsburg Morning Sun, fired off a records request demanding “All electronic and written communications, including but not limited to letters, text messages and emails, sent to or from Frontenac City Council members John Macary, Pat Clinton, LaDonna Pyle, Mike Snow, Marc McCully, David Hogard, and Brad Reams, Tim Fielder, Terri Kutz, and Linda Grilz for the period Monday, August 26, 2019, to Tuesday, September 17, 2019.”
The Sun was told they could have the documents, but it would be $3,500.
The Sentinel fired off an identical request late last year, but got a very different response — initially refusing to hand the records over at all. Then a second response was sent to news agencies, and new City Attorney Steve Angermayer said the city would comply with part of the request and it would cost $900, which the Sentinel is now challenging as explained earlier.
The city continues to delay responding to legitimate requests, in an apparent attempt to wait out the various news agencies — to include the Sentinel, Sun and Star, perhaps hoping the whole matter goes away.
However, the Star reports that not only is the Kansas Attorney General’s office investigating the denials, but the Star — and the Sentinel separately, have learned a federal lawsuit is in the offing.