February 20, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Gov. Kelly shuts down legislator’s COVID transparency inquiry

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For the second time in less than a month, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly shut down a discussion and refused to answer COVID transparency questions from a member of the State Finance Council. 

During the discussion portion of a presentation today on the use of federal COVID dollars to reimburse state agencies, Kansas House Majority Leader Rep. Dan Hawkins, (R-Wichita), began to ask Kelly why her administration — and specifically KDHE Secretary Lee Norman — had used doctored information to support her mask mandate.

Roughly 29 minutes into the meeting, Hawkins started to explain the basis for his question, but he was interrupted by Kelly and told his question was not germane to the discussion. Kelly then proceeded to simply move on with the meeting, calling for a motion and vote to approve the reimbursements.

Hawkins went on to vote “no” on that and several other motions, citing in each case the governor’s refusal to be transparent or allow him to ask a question.

“Over the past few days, I have been contacted by numerous constituents and media outlets regarding the misinformation put out by KDHE Secretary Norman when he presented a misleading chart relating to mask mandates,” Hawkins said in a statement. Governor Kelly refused to even let me finish my question, let alone answer it. I can only take her reaction as a defense of her administration’s misinformation, and I am appalled. Due to this serious lack of transparency, I could not rely on the accuracy of the other proposals from her administration today and voted no on each of them. Kansans deserve a government they can trust, they do not have one.”

It was not the first time Kelly chose to ignore Hawkins’ legitimate COVID transparency questions.

In late July, the Sentinel reported that it had — along with parent company the Kansas Policy Institute — spent nearly two months pursuing Kansas Open Records Act requests for data from KDHE and the Kelly administration related to COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on a county-by-county basis, only to have much of that request denied on a technicality. State law allows government to reject Open Records requests if complying would require the creation of a record; KDHE claims it doesn’t have an existing record of things like the number of hospitalizations on a daily basis.

Hawkins asked in a July 23 meeting of the SFC why her administration wouldn’t produce the requested data. Kelly simply ignored him and moved on.

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