TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas took an ethics database offline Thursday over questions about how it gave users access to financial disclosure forms for hundreds of elected officials and state employees that included the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach acted after the tech website Gizmodo posted a story saying it had contacted Kobach's office about the issue, according to news reports. Gizmodo called the failure to redact the partial Social Security numbers "beyond reckless" and "stupid."
Kobach, a conservative Republican, was vice chairman of President Donald Trump's now-disbanded voter fraud commission, which alarmed some state officials last spring by issuing a broad request to states for detailed information on voters, including partial Social Security numbers. Also, a multistate registration crosschecking program administered by Kobach's office has faced questions about how well it secures voter data it collects and uses.
But the database taken down Thursday went online in 2005 during the tenure of one of Kobach's predecessors as secretary of state, Republican Ron Thornburgh. It allowed users to view the disclosure forms that must be filed annually by elected officials, candidates, department heads, other key department employees and members of boards and commissions.
Kobach's office said in a statement that it is required by law to make the full disclosure form accessible to the public and that the state Governmental Ethics Commission designed the form. He said he agrees that partial Social Security numbers should be redacted and is working with the ethics commission, which plans to meet next week to consider the issue.
"Secretary Kobach takes security measures very seriously and is looking for a solution that would allow this sensitive information to be redacted, while still following the requirements of Kansas law," the statement said.
Kobach's office said the disclosure forms are "an important tool in ensuring government transparency." Paper copies remained open for inspection at Kobach's office.