In Maki’s case against City of Parkville
Parkville area resident and city officials continue to be locked in a standoff in a civil suit over the city’s refusal to release documents the citizen deems public under the state’s Sunshine Law.
The lawsuit, filed by Jason Maki, who leads a citizens group critical of the way the city is managed, is seeking the release of communications by city officials using their private servers. The two parties are marching ever nearer toward a Friday, Aug. 7 court date in response to the parties’ ongoing dispute, where Maki is asking the court to order the documents released and city officials are arguing specific answers could place the city’s computer system in jeopardy.
In addition, Maki, who leads Citizens for a Better Parkville, also asks the court to “impose other such sanctions, if any, as the court finds appropriate; and grant any other relief the court deems just and proper.”
The suit, filed Feb. 27 in Platte County Circuit Court, accuses the city of eight Sunshine Law violations and asks the city to produce private email and other such correspondence on private servers pertaining to Maki’s Sunshine requests submitted between September 2018 and the present.
In the latest court filings, Maki’s suit states that the “Plaintiff requested public records and paid the City’s requested fee.” But city officials did not comply. However, the city’s response cites state case law in which “Missouri courts have held while parties can discover information and documents relevant to a case, discovery is not meant for ‘untrammeled use of a factual dragnet or fishing expedition.’
“The city’s response claims the subject manner is overly broad and urges the court to “consider whether the information may be obtained in a less burdensome manner than that designed by the requesting party.”
Maki’s response counters that the city is “knowingly and willfully” violating the law, which is intended to safeguard transparency in government.
“In response to the city’s failures to answer and evasive discovery tactics, the Court should order that the City answer the interrogatories and, absent compliance, strike the City’s Answer and enter default judgement in Plaintiff’s favor.”
In a May 7 telephone conversation, the two parties discussed their differing views and Maki suggested he was prepared to “move to compel” if production of the records was further delayed to which the lead attorney for the city closed the conversation by referring to Maki as “an asshole,” according to court documents.
In response to Maki’s request that the city provide their process for handling Sunshine requests, the city stated officials “conduct searches of their files and e-mails for documents responsive to the request. In addition, depending on the request, search terms may be provided to the city’s outside IT (Information Technology) consultant to perform an electronic search.they are reviewed by city staff to determine whether they are responsive to the request and whether they are closed records under the Sunshine Law.”
The city’s statement continues that the search is conducted only after estimated payment is received. Maki claims he has paid several thousand dollars in fees, which is more than allowed by law.
The city’s response continues that “Mr. Maki’s interrogatories did not properly address the details he was looking for.” However, Maki’s documents reflect his belief that the city’s responses contain only “partial answers.” In asking for further details about the city’s management of such requests, the city objected to answering and asked Maki to issue a re-worded “interrogatory” and, after giving city officials a deadline, information was not released by the specified date, according to the documents.
In addition, the city’s general objection to Maki’s request is unlawful. “General objections are ineffective under Missouri law and should be overruled,” according to the document. “Plaintiff certifies that he has attempted to discuss the matter with opposing counsel in a good faith effort to resolve the disputed issues.”
Maki’s documents further claim the city failed to address the question and “provided a generalized boilerplate response to a specific question.” and “does not include any procedural steps” but instead includes “generalities that could be guessed at by any layperson.”
Maki claims city officials are capable of providing detailed explanations for various procedures as they did when challenged by Missouri Attorney General in which they provided an 11-page nearly 5,000-word response as to why the statewide office should not investigate the city for Sunshine violations, compared with the city’s approximately 200-word response to Maki’s Sunshine procedure request. Therefore, Maki’s court document states that the city only possesses a ‘general’ process for compliance with the open records laws and instead processes each request by ‘winging-it.’