The Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) ensures that everyday citizens can gain access to most documents created by public agencies.

This law not only establishes the procedure public agencies must follow when open records are requested, but it also defines what a public record is and what information can be withheld lawfully due to concerns about privacy or other sensitive information.

The public records that citizens may request are made and maintained by public agencies, but not all records fall under this law. No private person, group or company is subject to KORA.

While media sources, such as Ark City Daily Bytes, make use of KORA, they are not given any greater access than an average citizen.

KORA encompasses more than just paper documents — which is important to note in our increasingly technologically driven culture.

While paper documents obviously are regulated by this law, so are emails, voice recordings, video recordings, computerized documents and potentially even text messages. The law does not care what form the record is in — only that it contains information concerning public business.

Public agencies, however, are not required to give the citizens complete access to computerized data systems.

KORA also allows these agencies to charge fees in connection with providing access to or copies of public records. Agencies may use their discretion to set the fees, but they must be reasonable and may not exceed the actual costs incurred by providing the requested record.

For example, the agency can charge for physical supplies and whatever time an employee spends to generate or collect the requested records.

The law also allows public agencies to collect payment prior to actually producing the record.

Public agencies acknowledge receipt of requests for records no later than the third business day following the date the request was made. They then have a “reasonable” amount of time to produce the available records that fit the request.

If the records cannot be produced within the three-day time frame, the agency must give a detailed explanation of why.

There are some circumstances under which public agencies can deny access to a requested record. If the request is denied, a written account of the legal grounds for denial must be provided.

Agencies are not required to create records, only provide access to those records that existed at the time the request was made.