citizens’ group has launched a new angle in seeking information about communication between Parkville city officials and other public leaders in regard to a development set to go in at Hwy. 45 and I-435.
Jason Maki, a spokesperson for Citizens for a Better Parkville, a community group that has opposed the way the city has managed negotiations and communications about the development, has sent an open records request to Platte County officials, seeking communications between the larger governmental entity and city officials.
The citizens’ group contends the city has not been forthcoming with information about communications and discussed the development using private email accounts and cell phones to keep information from the public.
In addition, the group has accused the city of using correspondence to meet in small groups in order to avoid a quorum, which is the law’s definition of an official meeting. However, city officials contend their communications, even the ones occurring using private emails and cell phones, have been within the law.
The county request also is filed under the Sunshine Law, which is designed to foster transparency in government and follows dozens of similar requests submitted to Parkville officials. While Parkville provided some information requested, for which Maki has paid more than $5,000, the city continues to hold additional information to Maki in lieu of an unpaid $7,000 bill.
The law allows governmental entities to bill seekers of information nominal fees. Maki and his attorney claim Parkville’s fees are excessive and violate the law. But the city contends the fees are reasonable given the large amount of information requested.
Maki said the county responded to him early this week by saying he will receive all requested information by Friday, May 24 and at a rate of $15 per hour for retrieval.
“This is in stark contrast to what’s happened in Parkville,” he said, referring to the city’s longer time frame for information retrieval and higher charges.
Maki said his group also requested information from the Parkville Old Towne Market Community Improvement District (CID) and that group’s response was similarly quick and at no charge.
The city’s very different response causes he and his attorney to wonder about the city’s motivation. “What are they trying to hide?” he asked.
Maki said he believes the county request will be fruitful.
“I’m certain there’s going to be additional color to these conversations,” he said of communications regarding the development. He added that the requests may result in some information not provided by the city.
Both city and county requests have been in the form of letters authored by attorneys representing Maki. The original request, dated May 3, was amended May 13 after discussions between attorneys Matt Belz of Ottsen, Leggatt & Belz of St. Louis and county attorney Bob Shaw of McGinness & Shaw, Platte City.
During a telephone interview, Shaw said this type of Sunshine request is “not something that happens every day.”
The Sunshine request sent to Platte County includes correspondence related to Citizens for a Better Parkville, electronic communications between the city and county and “records, policies or procedures regarding the use of public funds to provide payment or reimbursement to any Platte County Missouri officials or staff for mobile or digital services” which include cell phones, laptops, internet, mobile data services.
The request for communications using privately paid devices is an attempt to avoid lack of information since Maki said he has learned that government officials often use such devices to conduct public business, as is the case with Parkville.