“My No. 1 question to anybody who opts in favor of nondisclosure is, ‘What are you trying to hide from us?’ ” said former Rep. John Rubin, a Johnson County Republican, calling Kansas “one of the most secretive, dark states in the country in many of these areas.”
What’s hidden are stories of regular Kansans who have suffered inside the silence.
In the course of its investigation, The Star found that:
▪ Children known to the state’s Department for Children and Families suffer horrific abuse, while the agency cloaks its involvement with their cases, even shredding notes after meetings where children’s deaths are discussed, according to a former high-ranking DCF official. One grieving father told The Star he was pressured to sign a “gag order” days after his son was killed that would prevent him from discussing DCF’s role in the case. Even lawmakers trying to fix the troubled system say they cannot trust information coming from agency officials.
▪ In the past decade, more than 90 percent of the laws passed by the Kansas Legislature have come from anonymous authors. Kansans often had no way of knowing who was pushing which legislation and why, and the topics have included abortion, concealed weapons and school funding. Kansas is one of only a few states that allow the practice.
▪ When Kansas police shoot and kill someone, law enforcement agencies often escape scrutiny because they are allowed to provide scant details to the public. The release of body-cam video has become common practice around the country after several high-profile, police-involved shootings. But in Kansas, a new state law is one of the most restrictive in the nation, allowing agencies to shelve footage that could shed more light on controversial cases.
▪ Kansas became the first state to fully privatize Medicaid services in 2013, and now some caregivers for people with disabilities say they have been asked to sign off on blank treatment plans — without knowing what’s being provided. In some of those cases, caregivers later discovered their services had been dramatically cut.
The examples, when stitched together, form a quilt of secrecy that envelops much of state government.
“Damn,” said Bob Stephan, a Republican and four-time Kansas attorney general. “That causes me concern. It’s very disheartening. … It’s gone crazy.”
This whole story is incredibly depressing. Between the evisceration of public services in Kansas and Louisiana and the move toward dictatorship in North Carolina, the red states are no longer the laboratories of democracy but rather are the laboratories of kleptocracy.