The attorney for a group opposed to a massive Parkville development again is requesting city officials provide emails regarding the project that were generated on private servers, disputing the city’s claims that such emails have been provided.
In a letter dated Monday, Graves Garrett law firm, who represents Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville, stated that the city provided only one email generated from a private server despite the city’s claims that they have been forthcoming with such information.
A copy of the letter to the city also was sent to the Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. The letter is among a series of letters mailed to Schmitt, complaining that city officials have violated the Sunshine Law, a state statute protecting citizen rights to government transparency.
City officials earlier declined to provide emails generated on private accounts, stating they are not subject to Sunshine Law. But the latest letter states that requested emails sent or received on the mayor’s or aldermen’s personal email accounts should fall under the law since aldermen are not provided a city email account and therefore use private email addresses in discussing city business. “…it appears that the city has not produced responsive emails from private email accounts—despite its legal duty and its assurances to the Attorney General,” the letter states.
An earlier letter from the city of Parkville to the attorney general states that the city has complied with the private email request by providing 5,000 “private” emails. But in attorney Andrew Alexander’s latest letter he states that, with only one exception, the city has provided no private emails because of the absence of the entire email stream of conversation, in effect blocking access to some information.
“The city appears to otherwise have only produced emails from private email accounts that were copied to a city email address,” the letter states.
Eddie Greim, another Graves Garrett attorney, said during a telephone interview, “I think they’re playing fast and loose with the facts.”
In addition, Greim said city officials are “holding emails hostage” by stating that Maki’s earlier payment of about $6,500 is not enough to cover copying costs as allowed in the statewide law. City officials earlier have stated that the amount of information requested justifies the additional charges of about $3,000.
City officials have been holding some information at city hall in lieu of the additional payment. The latest letter states that the private emails requested should fall under the fees already paid by Maki.
Maki said city officials should release the private emails in order to comply with the code of conduct as listed on the city’s website.
“They are bound to observe in their official acts the highest standards of morality and to discharge faithfully the duties of their office, regardless of personal considerations, recognizing that the public interest must be their primary concern,” the code states. “Their conduct in both their official and private affairs should be above reproach.”
Greim said Citizens for a Better Parkville is also requesting that private emails be preserved even if officials don’t release the information as requested.
However, Greim declined to state if litigation is pending and said he doesn’t expect to be alerted ahead of time if the attorney general’s office decides to act.
“We’re not going to get a tip-off,” he said.