A “private agency” FOIA case in Kansas

Bob Weeks of Wichita Liberty is taking the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation to task because the agency refused to honor his Kansas Sunshine Law request on the grounds that they are not a public agency.

Although the agency may be clumsily backing down, this case should help Kansans better understand the nature of these nominally private agencies that dot the municipal landscape.

Originally, the agency said, “The WDDC is a non-profit organization. Such entities do not become subject to the KORA merely by the receipt of some of their funding from the City, which is used to pay for services from the WDDC.”

Although the agency says they get “some of their funding” from the city, Weeks points out that virtually all of their money comes from taxes. He writes, “The WDDC is wholly supported by a special property tax district. Its only other income listed on its IRS form 990 for 2008 is a small amount of interest income, presumably from investment of unspent funds.”

The Kansas open records law doesn’t actually distinguish between “some” or “all” when it comes to whether agencies like this are subject to its provisions. What the law says is:

‘Public agency’ means the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any other entity receiving or expending and supported in whole or in part by the public funds appropriated by the state or by public funds of any political or taxing subdivision of the state.

See also:

Private agency, public dollars.

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