FRONTENAC — Former Frontenac Mayor Linda Grilz’s said she believes city council members violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act on Monday. On Thursday, the city refused to comply with an open records request from The Pittsburg Morning Sun within the legally required time limit of three days.
“The city’s justification for attempting to put the paper’s open records request on hold is simply a pretext for refusing to act as required under applicable law,” Kansas Press Association Legal Adviser Max Kautsch wrote in an email.
On Tuesday — following a 6-to-2 vote Monday to terminate city administrator Brad Reams, city attorney Tim Fielder and city clerk Terri Kutz — the Morning Sun requested: “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 city, in turn, declined to fill the request within the statutorily defined deadline.
“We have received your records request pursuant to KSA 45-218 dated September 17, 2019,” city staff wrote in a document emailed to the newspaper. “Currently we are without a City Attorney who would normally review such request. Once the City of Frontenac has an Attorney in place, we will contact you and your request will be processed in a timely manner.“
That excuse doesn't hold water, Kautsch said.
“When a public agency gets an open records request, that request ‘shall be acted upon’ within three business days,” Kautsch said. “Here, the city is refusing to act on the grounds that it does not currently employ a city attorney. But the law mandates a procedure for responding to open records requests. ... Hopefully the city will reconsider the paper’s request promptly.“
Monday’s vote to terminate the three employees wasn't part of the meeting’s agenda. While matters of non-elected personnel are generally discussed in an executive session, Monday’s vote was taken without prior discussion.
Considering the unusual circumstances, Grilz — who was Frontenac mayor until resigning Monday — said she thinks city council members violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act by planning their actions ahead of time.
“I overwhelmingly believe that it was discussed and I do believe that there was a KOMA violation,” Grilz said Tuesday.