‘One of the Most Secretive, Dark States’: What's Kansas Trying to Hide?

November 15, 2017

The statement was simple. Factual.

A Kansas spokesperson was acknowledging that the state highway department didn’t have the money to rebuild a dangerous stretch of Interstate 70 that had been the scene of multiple wrecks and a grisly motorcycle fatality caught on video.

“KDOT has lost a lot of money over the last few years,” the spokesperson said. “There’s just no funding at this point.”

Simple, yes. But in Gov. Sam Brownback’s cash-strapped administration, those were fighting words. Days later, the spokesperson was fired.

“Your article was the nail in my coffin for being the face of KDOT,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Kansas City Star.

The terminated employee, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, had learned what it meant to cross the line — the one where the state of Kansas doesn’t discuss public business with Kansans.

Kansas runs one of the most secretive state governments in the nation, and its secrecy permeates nearly every aspect of service, The Star found in a months-long investigation.

From the governor’s office to state agencies, from police departments to business relationships to health care, on the floors of the House and Senate, a veil has descended over the years and through administrations on both sides of the political aisle.

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