A mother’s quest for openness provides map for spurring change

Mike Sherry The Kansas Leadership Center Journal March 2022

When Shelia Albers couldn’t get answers to the questions she had after her 17-year-old son was shot and killed by an Overland Park police officer while the teen was in the midst of a mental health crisis, she didn’t give up. Instead, she kept pushing, using open records laws to unearth information that shed new light on aspects of the case, mobilized residents and helped change the ways that the city responds to incidents involving people facing mental health challenges. Her story shows how everyday people, not just journalists, can leverage public records to shape communities for the better.  

Jill Quigley is an open records advocate as a board member with the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government. A former Kansas lawmaker, she is also active with Johnson County voter education groups. She and Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute both agree Albers’ tenacity and background research is something all open records users would do well to emulate.  Government transparency is vital to an informed electorate, Quigley says. “It’s informed citizens that make informed votes that make democracy go,” she says.

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