TOPEKA, Kan. — A local prosecutor is warning Kansas legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback to preserve records and electronic files about meetings at his official residence as "potentially relevant evidence" into a newspaper's complaints that the sessions violated the state's open meetings act.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor sent a letter to all 40 state senators and all 125 House members, directing them to preserve not only their records, electronic files and "tangible items," but the same materials for their staffs, including interns. He told the legislators their efforts to preserve such materials "must begin immediately."
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter Thursday evening from a legislative source who did not want to be identified because copies of the letter, while delivered to the Statehouse, had not been distributed to all lawmakers. The letter was to be delivered to all offices by Friday.
Taylor confirmed Thursday night that he'd sent a copy of the letter to Brownback's office and his secretary of administration.
Brownback, a Republican, invited GOP lawmakers from 13 legislative committees to seven dinners in January, without notifying the public. The governor's staff has said the meetings did not violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act because he admonished them to avoid discussions that would violate the law and that the meetings were social gatherings.
However, the Topeka Capital-Journal, which has reported extensively about the meetings, asked Taylor on Tuesday to investigate.
Taylor said in his letter that he will be "seeking the production" of records, electronic files and other items from legislators as part of his investigation. He said in his letter that while questions might arise about the relevance of some information legislators should 'err on the side of preservation."
"Your efforts to identify and preserve relevant information must begin immediately, without exception or limitation," Taylor wrote. "This not only includes refraining from any acts that may alter or destroy relevant information, but also includes intervening to prevent loss due to routine operations."
Taylor said in an interview that he would publicly discuss the letter and his investigation Friday. He said he's taking the newspaper's allegations seriously.
"We're just doing our jobs," he told The Associated Press. "This was laid in our lap, so we have to deal with it."
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