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

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

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

Nathan Willis, former editor of the Kansan,filed thesuit in Shawnee County District Court after the KHP repeatedlyrefused to turn over information that according to Willis, isavailable to the public under the Kansas Open Records Act.

Lauren Brandenburg, a reporter for the Kansan,requestedthe report for a story about a Sept. 16 car accident that involvedSean Michael Scott, 16, and Felicia Bland, 39, who was killedin the accident.

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

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

Tom Eblen, adviser to the Kansan,said the paper wouldcontinue 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 reportis preposterous."

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