Parkville area resident who has complained about the city’s response to open records requests regarding a new development under construction there has sent a new letter to the Missouri Attorney General.
The six-page document, written by Maki’s attorney, is the latest in a paper trail to the chief legal officer of the state and follows an original complaint filed in January.
The new letter argues against the City of Parkville’s response to Maki’s original letter, which found fault with Parkville’s response to open records requests under the Sunshine Law, a state statute designed to foster transparency in government. Maki and his attorney claim city officials were slow to respond to requests and have overcharged for information regarding a 350-acre residential, light industrial and retail development currently being built there.
The latest letter responds to the city’s recent rebuttal letter to the statewide office in which the city argued that the information requested under Sunshine was provided to the best of the city’s abilities and that fees were not excessive given the volume of records requested.
However, Maki contends the more than $4,000 he already paid the city should suffice since the law allows governments to charge minimal fees for documents supplied under the Sunshine Law. The city continues to hold some information in lieu of an additional $7,000, Maki said.
The latest letter argues that city officials raised the cost for some records after already quoting a lower cost of more than $4,000, which Maki paid.
“The city is violating the Sunshine Law by holding already-paid-for open records hostage for fees not attributable to those records,” says the letter, signed by Eddie Greim of the Graves Garrett law firm in Kansas City.
In addition, the letter faults city officials for not contacting Maki or making any attempt to reduce response time and cost.
Additional arguments include that City Administrator Joe Parente should not have been involved in the fulfillment of records requests.
“The city is charging excessive fees for accessing public records stored on computer…” the letter states.
The letter explains that city officials claimed they were checking documents to ensure items exempted from public view under the law were not included. “A city administrator is not required to evaluate whether a record responds to a simple records request and it is unclear why the city would expect personnel files to be attached to emails about a community development,” the letter states. “Perhaps this is simply an attempt to punish requestors by forcing them to manually screen outgoing public records productions for potential damaging documents,” the letter states.
The letter argues that retrieval of information, and scanning for issues exempted from public view, is quick and easy given modern computer technology and should not have been done by a high-ranking Parkville official such as Parente. The letter requests further inquiry into the city’s action.
“We also urge that your investigation probe the process by which Parkville officials reviewed documents for product,” the letter to the attorney general states, as well as “the individuals involved in the review and the scope and purpose of the reviews, and the basis for fees charged.”
Maki recently requested information from Platte County (see related story in this issue of The Landmark) regarding communications between the county and city regarding the development in hopes that the information will provide information either missing or being held in lieu of additional charges.