Roeland Park passes policy setting guidelines for handling media requests

An official media policy was adopted this week by Roeland Park with a vote of 5-4, after Mayor Mike Kelly cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the guidelines.

The policy routes media requests for an official city statement to the city administrator and the mayor, while still allowing councilmembers to speak to the media about their personal opinion on an issue.

Councilmembers Becky Fast, Tom Madigan, Jim Kelly and Erin Thompson voted against the measure and councilmembers Tim Janssen, Jennifer Hill, Claudia McCormack and Michael Poppa voted in favor.

Thompson said she supported being able to contact city officials directly.

“I don’t think we should be in the business of regulating speech,” Thompson said.

Mayor Kelly said that he did not believe the policy “restricts speech.”

The policy states that “City employees and councilmembers (other than the Mayor) shall not make statements on behalf of the City, provide information for distribution, or provide background information unless specifically asked to do so by the City Administrator and/or approved designees.”

According to a staff report the guidelines are meant to encourage engagement and protect the accuracy of information “without hindering elected officials ability to communicate with the media to share their perspectives/opinions.”

The guidelines were modeled after policies used by Overland Park and Merriam.

During the Aug. 6 workshop councilmembers Madigan and Fast noted concerns that the guidelines directed the media first to the mayor. After a brief debate the policy was amended to route initial requests to the office of the city administrator instead of the mayor.