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  • Writer's pictureJournal Staff Report

Commission chair fails to comply with open records filing

Updated: Jun 29

MOUND CITY – Linn County Commission Chair Danny McCullough apparently will not be complying with a request by the Linn County Journal for records of texts and emails received during open sessions of the county commission dating back to last year.

County Clerk David Lamb said on Wednesday, June 28, that McCullough had not turned over his county and personal cell phones to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office as requested. The Journal filed a Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) request on May 29, and a modified request was approved by County Counselor Mark Hagen.

Following final approval of the request, commissioners were notified on the morning of Wednesday, June 19, that they were to submit their cell phones to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office by the following day, according to Lamb.

Commissioners Jim Johnson and Jason Hightower turned in their cell phones by the deadline, however, McCullough notified Lamb that he was out of state and would not be able to turn in his phones.

There was some doubt this week with reports of McCullough back in Linn County that he would comply with the order. And on Wednesday, June 26, Lamb said that McCullough had talked with legal counsel about the request and would likely not voluntarily turn in his phones.

For Commissioner Jim Johnson that would include his private cell phone only because he does not keep a county-provided phone. For commissioners Jason Hightower and Danny McCullough it would include their private cellphones and county cellphones.

The requests also included all emails received by the commissioners during the above time period, not just during the commission meeting, from specific individuals including those who have been present at commission meetings and have been vocal in opposition to zoning issues including solar utility installations and a rock quarry.

According to Lamb, the information on the phones will be vetted so that it contains only the information requested. Also information dealing with information protected by state statute, including correspondence from the commission’s attorney, personnel information, security data and information usually discussed by commission in closed-door session will be redacted.

Workers in Lamb’s office have been working to go through the information already received. He did not give an indication on how long it would take before the results would be ready.

Journal publisher Roger Sims called McCullough’s failure to honor the order “disappointing.” However, he said the Journal planned to take action to enforce the KORA request.

Earlier in June, Sims said it became apparent that some of the actions taken by the commission appeared to have been pre-planned outside of an open meeting. If that is the case, it could be a violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA).

“Our other concern is that commissioners are receiving texts and emails during open session without sharing that information,” he said. “That means that there are essentially two meetings running concurrent with each other – the meeting that the in-person and live-stream video audiences see and the other one that happens on commissioners’ cellphones.”

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