Archive for Thursday, February 12, 2015

State board told Attorney General’s office can’t advise it

February 12, 2015

— A small state board will be seeking outside legal help after the Kansas Attorney General's office said it does not have the resources to represent the board on routine legal issues.

Joe Williams, chairman of the Kansas Underground Utility Notification Center board, said Wednesday the attorney general's office said it didn't have lawyers available unless the board pays to hire representation through the office, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The board oversees Kansas One Call, which educates the public and fields calls about avoiding utility lines when digging.

The attorney general's office would represent the board on a specific case, such as a lawsuit, but is not able to provide routine legal advice, said Jennifer Rapp, spokeswoman for Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The office gives routine advice to about 30 state offices.

"We do not have the capacity to represent more with current resources," she said.

The board was created after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a previous entity, called Kansas One Call, wasn't a public entity and couldn't be a notification center. The state then created the KUUNC to oversee the calls but it has not had a budget or staff.

Williams said he initially thought the attorney general's office didn't understand the board's situation.

"It turns out, no, they knew what was going on," he said. "The AG was in kind of a Catch-22."

The board works closely with the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities. The commission said it could arrange for a lawyer to provide free representation in the short term, with a board subcommittee will be able to choose among the lawyers who volunteer to help, Williams said.

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