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Kansas AG: Private emails on public topics protected

Kansas’ attorney general said Tuesday that emails sent by state employees through private accounts aren’t public record, even when they deal with public business.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt was responding to a question from state Sen. Anthony Hensley about whether such an email would constitute public record. Schmidt, who interpreted "private email" to be an email sent not only through a private account but also on a private device, replied: "In short, we think the answer is 'no.'"

Schmidt had already established in a different opinion that emails in the possession of public agencies are open records, his opinion said. But Schmidt wrote that individual state employees don’t constitute a "public agency" as defined by the Kansas Open Records Act.

Hensley’s inquiry was in response to reporting that showed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director had sent a draft of the state budget via private email weeks before it was publicly revealed.

In response to Schmidt’s decision, Kansas Press Association Executive Director Doug Anstaett released a statement: "This decision essentially says government business can legally take place in the shadows, which I firmly believe most Kansans would reject out of hand," it read in part.

To read more from the Wichita Eagle, click here.

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