Court Fines KCC For Open Meetings Act Violation

By: WIBW (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: WIBW (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Corporation Commission will pay a fine for violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

The Shawnee County District Court ruled Friday that the KCC violated KOMA by using a process of notational voting when it approved a nearly 50-percent rate increase for a Salina water district, known as Howison Heights.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit Shawnee Co. District Attorney Chad Taylor filed in June. Taylor says the KCCC agreed it committed a technical violation by using the process which side-stepped a public hearing.

In its ruling, the court prohibited the KCC from using notational voting in the future and imposed a $500 fine, which is the maximum allowable by law.

Taylor says Friday's ruling resolves the matter.

Complete news release from Shawnee Co. DA Chad Taylor:

Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has announced that the KOMA litigation against the Kansas Corporation Commission has been resolved.

On Friday, November 8, 2013, the Shawnee County District Court found that the KCC violated KOMA by using a process of notational voting when it approved an order authorizing Howison Heights, Inc. to increase rates it was permitted to charge as a water utility. The Court also prohibited the KCC from using notational voting in the future and imposed a $500 fine, the maximum allowable by law.

The order ends the lawsuit that was filed by the Office of the District Attorney on June 26, 2013, after it received a complaint from the Citizen Utility Rate Payer Board. During a 120 day stay of the lawsuit, the KCC conducted a comprehensive review of its operations. This review included an analysis of the notational voting system that the KCC had used in regulating public utilities. Following completion of this review, the KCC agreed that it had violated KOMA by using notational voting to approve the Howison Heights rate increase and agreed that Commissioners Sievers and Feist-Albrecht had committed a technical violation of KOMA when they met during the notational voting process involving Howison Heights, Inc.

The Office of the District Attorney is aware that the KCC has implemented other changes to the processes and procedures it uses to regulate public utilities; however, these changes are beyond the scope of the litigation filed against the KCC and the Office of the Shawnee County District Attorney will not issue advisory opinions. As such, the Office of the District Attorney has no comment on whether the policies and procedures adopted by the KCC will comply with KOMA.

Mr. Taylor is satisfied with the resolution of this matter and firmly believes the integrity of the Kansas Open Meetings Act is preserved thereby. Further, he is hopeful that the admissions of the KCC and their willingness to revise their internal policies as they relate to KOMA bodes well for open and transparent business to be conducted by the KCC in the future.


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