$10,000 for 20 Emails? Largest Kansas college JCCC sued by national student press group over open records

There should be an Intrade market related to JCCC’s constant legal battles.

Well, Converge Magazine lost some credibility these past months.  In 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and again in 2011, Converge named Johnson County Community College a “top-rated community colleges for digital technology.”

But how can this be, when JCCC leaders want $10,000 for 20 Emails, and when JCCC is claiming it needs to hire an outside data firm to locate these Emails, as part of an open records request?

From the Virginia-based Student Press Law Center:

KANSAS — The Student Press Law Center and a college journalist filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Johnson County Community College in Kansas for excessive fees to release open records, including nearly $10,000 to produce one day’s worth of emails.

The college estimated a total of $24,130.72 to fulfill requests by the SPLC and former copy editor Marcus Clem for staff emails and documents related to other open records requests.

Attorney Christopher Grenz, of the Kansas City law firm Bryan Cave, who is handling the case pro bono as part of the SPLC’s attorney referral network, said the fees are “facially excessive.”

“They’re basically hanging a price tag on what should be public documents in order to keep those documents from being public,” Grenz said.

Read the full complaint here (PDF) from the SPLC.

The Olathe News (note: its Olathe offices are closed, and now The Olathe News is merely part of the McClatchy-owned Kansas City Star):

But Clem said, “There must be something in those emails that they are desperate to cover up …”

There’s no coverup, responded Sopcich. “When you have to go back a bit in time for electronic information it becomes a bit more complicated.”

The law center and Clem also had asked for all the open-record requests and responses the school had received in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. The suit contends they were told it would cost $1,120 for a lawyer to review 4,350 pages of documents before being released.

Some of the people behind the constant stream of scandals and wasted tax funds for legal costs at Johnson County Community College:

President Terry Calaway; Secretary to the President and the Board Terri Schlicht; JCCC Board member and former Metcalf Bank CEO Jon Stewart; former State Representative and JCCC Board member Stephanie Sharp; Polsnelli Shugart attorney, past campaign treasurer to Stephanie Sharp, and JCCC Board member Greg Musil; DeVry administrator and JCCC Board member Don WeissZerger and Maurer attorney and JCCC Board member Melody Rayl; former scandal-plagued Olathe School Board member, the president of the tax-funded non-profit “TLC for Children and Familes” (the Olathe-based TLC for Children and Families also lists Jon Stewart as an advisory board member), and JCCC Board member Bob DrummondOverland Park Conventions Bureau president and JCCC Board member Jerry CookJCCC PR chief Julie Haasformer “diversity” leader Carmaletta Williams; law partner to the former Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates at “Gates, Shields, and Ferguson,” the guy who replaced now-Kansas Supreme Court Justice Dan Bilesafter Biles went directly from Larry Gates’ office to the high court under Kansas’ “merit-based” judicial selection system, the guy who caused Gates’ firm name change from “Gates, Biles, Shields, and Ryan,” former Lathrop and Gage attorney, no-bid legal contract recipient at JCCC, the lawyer who represented JCCC while it lost in federal court after illegally expelling four nursing students, the lawyer who unethically sent me a taxpayer-funded letter in 2009 instructing me (then his employer) that I could not call JCCC leaders “corrupt” after trying to illegally talk about the budget in a closed meeting and then using taxpayer resources to cover it up, JCCC attorney Mark FergusonJCCC administrator Joe Sopcich; former Trustee, former Gardner School Board member, and Gardner funeral home director Shirley Brown VanArsdale; and banker, former Trustee, and past Greater Kansas City Community Foundation board member Lynn Mitchelson.

I did not fully appreciate the phrase “The cover-up is worse than the crime” until my four-year tenure at Johnson County Community College.


Connect with Benjamin Hodge at FacebookTwitterLinkedInThe Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas.  He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011.  His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters,the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRAKansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).


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