The Missouri Attorney General is probing the City of Parkville over alleged violations of the Sunshine Law.
Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston on Monday evening confirmed that the city has been contacted by the attorney general’s office in regard to the matter.
The complaint was filed with the attorney general in January by the law firm of Graves Garrett on behalf of Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville. The complaint asked for an investigation into what the group considers a series of improper actions by the city, most of which they contend are violations of the state’s open meetings and records law.
“We heard from them (the attorney general’s office) Friday and they would like for us to respond to the complaint by April 10,” Johnston said in response to an emailed inquiry from a [Landmark reporter].
In a nine page formal letter dated Jan. 9, the complaint outlined the group’s objections to the development project slated to go in at Hwy. 45 and I-435. The letter included concerns about several activities by city officials in regard to requests for public information. The complaint said the city had responded to a few requests for information and that information proves the city held private meetings with developer Brian Mertz and his attorney for months before the issue was discussed in open planning and zoning and board of aldermen meetings. Among the information provided by the city in response to the Sunshine request is written communication in which Joe Parente, city administrator, told city staff and elected officials to be careful to avoid a quorum at these unofficial meetings, so as not to violate the Sunshine Law.
In response to The Landmark’s inquiry about the contact from the attorney general, the city issued the following response Tuesday morning:
“On Friday, the City of Parkville received a letter from the Missouri Attorney General about the January 9, 2019 complaint by Jason Maki concerning “Possible Sunshine Law Violations by the City of Parkville and the Parkville Economic Development Council.” The Attorney General’s letter stated that its office was reviewing this matter to insure (sic) compliance with the Sunshine Law and requests the city provide a written response no later than April 10, 2019.
“The City is in the process of preparing a written response to aid the Attorney General in the review. The City does not believe it violated the Sunshine Act and its response and supporting documentation will demonstrate this. In addition, some of the items raised in Mr. Maki’s complaint have already been addressed in subsequent responses by the City of Parkville.
“Since September, Mr. Maki has made 24 Sunshine Requests, each requesting numerous different types of records. Many of the requests lacks reasonable specificity for a record (e.g., a staff policy report sent to the planning commission), and includes broad requests for “all communications or records related to a subject” which results in the retrieval and review of voluminous amounts of records. As of March 8, 2019, the city has released 50,525 documents, letters, memoranda, reports, and email communications to the requestor. City staff continues to review thousands of additional records and are producing documents on a rolling basis.
“The City of Parkville welcomes the use of the Sunshine Law to promote government transparency and accountability. We continue to respond to request for records and to operate our government openly and in full compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Act. We welcome a review by any government body or entity.”
Maki says the number of unique documents he has received from the city is 12,000. Many of the 50,000 total documents claimed to have been sent by the city are duplicates, he said.