TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Under scrutiny for using private email and cellphones for official communications, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that he has engaged in the practice since he was a U.S. senator.
The Wichita Eagle reported Saturday that the Republican governor has used private emails for official business, raising concerns because documents related to them aren't accessible under the Kansas Open Records Act. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan also used a private email account at least twice in December to circulate details about spending proposals.
Brownback said Monday that he began conducting some business through private email or cellphones while serving in the U.S. Senate from 1996 through 2010 due to situations where it was unclear whether the communication was personal or official.
"I just thought, well, look, 'I'll just use the personal one and pay for that myself,'" he said at a news conference.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, issued an opinion recently saying that the state's open records law does not cover private emails from public officials, but he recommended that lawmakers fix that loophole.
Legislators have since introduced two bills that would make any email a public official sends within the course of their duties subject to open records requests, while other emails would remain exempt.
Brownback said using his private cellphone and email saves the state money and is easier.
"That's just a simple way to do it. There's multiple email addresses, ways to contact me. I've got state email addresses too," he said.
Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita said he believes the governor communicates on private accounts to skirt open records requests and rolled his eyes at Brownback's reasoning.
"This is the governor again trying to defend the indefensible. It's absolutely wrong to do public business on private email accounts to avoid open records and transparency in government," Ward said.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has drawn criticism over the revelation that she frequently used a private email server for official business while serving as U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.
Brownback's office: https://governor.ks.gov/ .