Parkville area man who has objected to the city’s action regarding lack of normal public notification of a recent public meeting took his complaint a step further when his attorney sent a letter to the Missouri Attorney General’s office.
The Oct. 11 letter asks the state attorney general to investigate what Jason Maki views as another violation of the state’s open meeting law, charging that the method in which the city notified the public of the meeting and the location kept citizens from knowing about and attending the meeting.
The letter, which is the eighth complaint filed by Maki and his attorneys to the attorney general, explains that city officials deviated from their normal means of notification on the city’s website, instead placing a paper sign inside city hall.
The complaint states that the meeting location, which deviated from the usual City Hall council chambers, also was designed to thwart public attendance.
The Aug. 16 “Strategic Planning Workshop” was held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 at Platte Valley Bank in Parkville.
In addition to attorney general complaints, Maki said that he and his attorneys recently met with staff from the office of Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway.
The Missouri auditor, who acts as the state’s chief fiscal regulator, also is interested in exploring the city’s possible violations of the Sunshine Law, Maki said during a Tuesday afternoon telephone interview.
Maki said the state auditor’s office wants copied in all complaints filed with the attorney general about the City of Parkville’s activity.
Maki has said Citizens for a Better Parkville is giving the city a chance to voluntarily request a state audit, something Mayor Nan Johnston has in the past said she would welcome. If the city does not request the audit, Maki says an effort to acquire enough citizen signatures to force an audit will begin sometime in November.
Parkville City Administrator Joe Parente has said officials were compliant with law in advertising the planning meeting.
But Eddie Greim of Graves Garrett law firm in Kansas City, who drafted the letter to the attorney general, said the law clearly states meeting notices must be in a prominent place, easily accessible to the public and clearly designated for that purpose.
Greim also said the law states that if a body has a habit of posting meeting notices in certain places (such as Parkville’s use of the city’s website), the same place must be used, making departure of normal practice a violation of law.
Parente has said city leaders are only required to place a sign where the meeting is taking place.
Parente argued city officials held the meeting off-site because the atmosphere is more conducive to discussion without interruption. He further stated that no formal action was taken at the workshop and that initiatives discussed were formally adopted during a Sept. 17 meeting at City Hall.
Maki has said because the meeting was not held in council chambers, with access to video and audio recording, citizens must take the officials’ word about what occurred during the meeting. He has said previously that city actions regarding transparency make him reluctant to rely on the word of city officials.
Previous letters of complaint sent to the attorney general have focused on what Maki and his attorneys consider illegal practices by not releasing requested documents under the state’s Sunshine Law, designed to ensure government transparency.
Maki has requested access to communications between city officials in order to ensure meetings and communications were held in public forums and in compliance with state law. While Maki has received some city communications as requested, he and his attorneys argue the city continues to “hold hostage” other records vital to understanding the city’s actions leading up to the development and beyond. The city is holding the documents in lieu of several thousand dollars in payment.
Maki and his attorneys have said he has already made payments of several thousand dollars for records, said the amount requested violates state law since governmental bodies are only allowed to request nominal fees associated with copying documents.