My habit is not to usually name names, because most of my stories come to me third hand, but
today will be different. This happened to me, and I'm still fuming.
I have a client preparing a liquor license application. These are fraught with potential issues
and I decided, after talking to another attorney, that the best thing I could do for my client's
protection would be to go down to the liquor licensing office ( regulated industries ) in Kansas
City and look at one of the other attorney's applications for a license.
I go down Monday to request a file. I make my request and, of course, find out I cannot
access it right at that time. No, they'll call me when I can come look at it. Now, we're talking
about a file that probably is kept in alphabetical order in a file cabinet, but I admit I don't know
for a fact how they are filed. Still, I cannot imagine we are talking extensive research here. At
first, I'm told I'll be able to see it the next day or the second day.
Of course, it's the full 72 hours before I'm granted access on Thursday. And a problem I
suspected was going to develop did. I'd been warned I could not take notes, but request copies
only. I knew what I wanted -- just a few notes from one page in the application would suffice --
what I wanted was specifically language a lawyer had used and I just wanted to write down those
words so my application would mirror that identical language. I did NOT need a photocopy (and
I did NOT want to pay for the cost of a copy when a few scribbles on paper would suffice).
No, the clerk said. They would not let you hand-copy anything from the file. You would be
forced to pay the cost for a photocopy if you wanted to take with you some information from the
I picked up my cell phone and called Galen Beaufort, the city attorney for Kansas City, and
complained. The language in 610.023 is clear: Each public governmental body shall make
available for inspection and COPYING by the public of that body's public records. The word
copying is not defined in the law as meaning only photocopying. But the clerk was adamant
that the department's POLICY was that they did not allow hand copying.
After several minutes of discussion between the clerk, the city attorney, and a conversation
between her supervisor and me, I was allowed to do what I wished and make some hand notes.
But there's no excuse for a city agency to have a policy like this.
I know why the policy is there. The city is required by state law to protect confidential
personal information -- your Social Security number -- that might be contained in this
application. But instead of solving that problem -- finding a way to keep confidential
information from being mixed in with open records -- the city chooses to simply create a policy
that is a clear violation of the law, tell all citizens that this policy IS the law and therefore they
must pay a charge that clearly is a violation of state law.
(And the city seems also to ignore its responsibility under 610.024, which says if a record
contains exempt and non-exempt material, the public body SHALL separate the exempt and
nonexempt material and make the nonexempt material available for examination and copying.
So not only is the city lying to you, the citizen, it's doing so for the purpose of avoiding its
Well, I'm still fuming. What a lousy way to do business.