embers of a local citizens’ group are asking Parkville city officials why they did not post notice of a recent meeting on the city’s website, where all other city meetings are listed.
Instead, notice of a recent workshop session was only placed on a window at city hall and at the site of the meeting, Platte Valley Bank.
Jason Maki, head of a citizens’ group advocating for government transparency, said because the Aug. 16 meeting was not listed on the city’s website, officials have sent a clear message. Placing the meeting notice “in a small, inconspicuous corner of City Hall is insulting to the intelligence of the general public,” he said.
Maki added that “it’s very clear the intentions of the city were to thwart public attention.” He added, “I guess we need to go on a scavenger hunt.”
City Administrator Joe Parente confirmed notice of the meeting was not listed on the city’s website and instead was only posted at City Hall and at the bank because “it’s what the city has chosen to do.”
He further explained that the meeting notice as posted was “as required by law.”
Further, officials see a distinction between meetings, in which action takes place, and the workshop, which “was an opportunity for the board and staff to converse” with no formal votes.
The public, Parente said, “could have attended if they chose to” although he admitted that the meeting location was “remote.”
Parente said: “Unlike regular board meetings which are held in City Hall meeting rooms, these types of workshops are typically held off site to get away from the everyday distractions of the workplace.”
But Eddie Greim, an attorney with Graves Garrett of Kansas City, said the absence of a vote does not call for diversion from the usual public meeting notice.
In addition, Greim said state law dictates governmental bodies must place meeting notices in a “reasonable” place.
“You can’t put a note by the drinking fountain…stating go back to the broom closet,” he said.
Instead, the law states meeting notices must be in “a prominent place easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose,” he said, paraphrasing the law during a telephone interview.
The law goes on to state that if a body has a habit of posting meeting notices in certain places (such as Parkville’s use of the city website), the same place must be used, making “a departure from their normal practice” a violation of state law.
Parente said the board is “only legally required to post meeting notices where the meeting is taking place” and that initiatives discussed at the workshop were formally adopted during a regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 17 at City Hall.
Items approved by the board at the meeting, which includes suggestions from the workshop, are on the city’s website at www.parkvillemo.gov. and by choosing the government drop-down menu, Board of Aldermen, packet. The workshop items begin on page 71 of a 128-page document.
But Maki said because the meeting was not held at City Hall where there is ready access to audio and video capabilities, the public is forced to take officials’ word about what was discussed.
“We have to rely on blind trust,” he said, adding that an investigation of the city by the Missouri Attorney General for Sunshine Law violations makes him reluctant to rely on the word of city officials. The investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted because of possible violations of the law, which is designed to safeguard government transparency.