his spring election season in Platte County has had a little bit of everything. Don’t turn away too long, you’ll miss something.
The City of Parkville is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office over alleged Sunshine Law violations. No two ways about it. That is, unless you listen to the word speak put out by the city. Joe Parente, city administrator for Parkville, took issue with The Landmark’s use of the word “investigating” when discussing the matter. The city’s stance is that this is a “review” by the attorney general and not an “investigation.” He says the AG is “reviewing” not “investigating.”
Geez, play word games much, Joe? Ok, let’s play.
I asked Parente for a copy of the attorney general’s letter sent to the city. My reading of the letter leaves me very comfortable with the newspaper’s use of the word “investigating.” The AG’s letter states, among other things, that the “review” may result in enforcement action against the city under state statute. There is nothing in the letter that indicates a “review” is something different from an “investigation.” When a “review” can bring statutory enforcement action, in the minds of most reasonable people that’s an “investigation.”
I reached out by phone to Casey Lawrence, director of Sunshine Law compliance in the Missouri Attorney General’s office, but was told he is out of the office until next week.
By the way, I noticed the City of Osage Beach has also received one of those “review” letters from the attorney general’s office. What word did the Springfield media use in reporting it? “Attorney General investigating City of Osage Beach for alleged Sunshine Law violation” is the headline on ky3.com.
Remember, the election on the proposed $65 million jail tax in Platte County is Tuesday. Get out to vote.
If you’ve been reading this column over the past few months you know my opinion is that this is a bad plan that is too vague, too expensive, considerably larger than necessary in its scope, and poorly timed in several ways, in particular considering the county commission has trashed the county’s credit rating, which will drive financing costs through the roof.
Read Jim DeJarnatt’s letter to the editor at right. He nails it. Some of his best points include his remarks that three county commissioners who have already betrayed our trust are now asking us to trust them again. Thanks for asking, commissioners, but personally I’ll take a pass on trusting you with a blank check on 65 million of our dollars. What say you?
“They (the county commissioners) want us (taxpayers) to pay for their mistakes,” DeJarnatt says.
That is a perfect summary of this situation. This entire situation has been a lesson in bad governing. Don’t reward bad governing. If you do things will only get worse. Vote no on this boondoggle.
Tell the commissioners to take care of deputy pay before spending millions on a massive prison expansion that seems destined to be used as a jail hotel to import someone else’s problems.
At some of the recent “education sessions” put on by county officials who want a $65 million sales tax increase, Sheriff Mark Owen has speculated the recent Supreme Court announcement that effective July 1 courts in Missouri will stop jailing suspects who are not considered dangerous or a flight risk will actually increase jail populations by resulting in failure to appear warrants. The sheriff’s stance is getting chuckled at by some observers.
“That’s some creative math,” one legal observer told me last week. “Failure to appear for a non-violent crime is not likely to result in incarceration,” under the new rules, was the comment. Let’s see how it plays out.
Along those lines, remember the retired federal agent I’ve mentioned has been assisting in keeping an eye on jail population for The Landmark the past several months? I’ve heard from him again. He is able to “scrape” information from the sheriff’s jail population list, including information on what alleged crimes the suspects are being held, bond amount, arresting agency, etc. After studying those types of details on the inmates, the retired federal agent offered a prediction on what effect the new court rule will have on Platte County’s jail population. He predicts a 23 percent drop in Platte County jail inmate population. “That’s a conservative estimate,” he said.
Platte County’s jail population Tuesday morning was 162. The sheriff has said he is renting beds out for 15 ICE inmates, so the county prisoners would number 147. Subtract 23% from 147 and that number would be down to about 113 or 114 county inmates.
Remember, jail capacity is 180.
At 114 inmates, the jail would only be at 63% capacity. The county commissioners’ very own hired jail consultant says the county is only adding about seven inmates per year. Somebody tell me again why we need to rush to add 200 more beds?
And don’t forget, the number of felony crimes committed in Platte County actually fell by three percent in 2018.
If the sheriff has felt for years his jail is overcrowded and we need an immediate expansion he apparently wasn’t sharing that alleged problem with Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd. We had Zahnd on our Landmark Live show as a guest on Feb. 1, 2018, just 14 months ago. I asked Zahnd his opinion on future needs for a jail expansion. Here was Zahnd’s answer:
“I will tell you there’s going to be a day when we’re going to have to expand the size of the county jail because I believe this county is going to continue to grow. Do I think that day is today? No. I don’t think we need to build a jail today, we’re not going to need to build a jail tomorrow. But we need to be planing now for the fact that a decade from now we’re probably going to be out of space.”
So Zahnd’s short answer was we’ll need more jail space 10 years from now. His analysis of the situation was just 14 months ago. To watch that video, go to bit.ly/2HSr5ms and fast forward to about the 26:30 mark. For your convenience I’ll also repost the video on our social media outlets soon.
(For more Between the Lines, go to Platte County Landmark on Facebook and watch the Landmark Live videos on that Facebook page. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)