University of Kansas newspaper sues highway patrol for access to accident report

The University of Kansas’ daily newspaper, the Daily Kansan, filed suit against the Kansas Highway Patrol in November to obtain a report about a fatal car accident.

The Kansas Attorney General’s office filed a motion Dec. 26 to dismiss the case brought by the paper against the highway patrol.

Nathan Willis, former editor of the Kansan, filed the suit in Shawnee County District Court after the KHP repeatedly refused to turn over information that according to Willis, is available to the public under the Kansas Open Records Act.

Lauren Brandenburg, a reporter for the Kansan, requested the report for a story about a Sept. 16 car accident that involved Sean Michael Scott, 16, and Felicia Bland, 39, who was killed in the accident.

Scott was charged with involuntary manslaughter for hitting Bland while driving under the influence on Kansas Highway 10 on his way home from the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house.

The highway patrol contends it does not have to comply with the Open Records Act, citing a loophole that permits records to be closed during a criminal investigation.

Tom Eblen, adviser to the Kansan, said the paper would continue to pursue the case until the report is made available.

“We’re interested in seeing this through until the end,” Eblen said. “The fact that we can’t get a basic police report is preposterous.”

According to Michael Merriam, the attorney for the paper, the Kansan is prepared to oppose the current motion to dismiss.