Amended petition filed by Maki
n an amended petition, a Parkville area resident has asked a Platte County judge to order the city to pay nearly $300,000 in damages, court costs and fees for what he said are numerous violations of the state Sunshine Law.
Jason Maki, a vocal opponent of the way the city conducts business, filed his amended petition last Thursday in Platte County Circuit Court, asking the judge to find in his favor for “knowing and purposeful” violations of the state law which is designed to safeguard open and transparent government.
Maki’s action is the latest in a civil suit he filed against the city in February against city officials, including Mayor Nan Johnston, City Administrator Joe Parente and the eight-member board of aldermen.
The “amended petition for injunctive and monetary relief” alleges city officials have committed 59 violations of the law since 2018, including illegally withholding public documents from Maki, overcharging him for the documents they provided and altering versions of some released documents.
Maki said he has paid nearly $13,000 for open records from the city.
The law allows governments only to charge nominal fees to help offset costs of copying, for example, and prohibits culling certain documents to only release some information while withholding others.
The documents city officials have released to Maki are available to the public for free on an online data base, transparency.abetterparkville.com.
Some of the documents Maki is seeking are communications between elected and city officials using private email servers and could reveal the city’s actions and communications prior to the construction of a more than 350 acre residential, retail, and light industrial development named Creekside, currently under construction.
Maki alleges city officials held improper meetings and discussions before alerting citizens through open forums.
There have been two recent hearings in the case, which are pre-trial events. In late July, city attorneys filed a petition requesting a trial, but Maki said the move is intended to limit his time and ability to obtain information prior to trial. Van Amburg is considering the trial date.
At the Aug. 7 hearing, the judge ordered the city to provide more detailed answers to Maki in the discovery phase, including the city’s processes for filling requests for public documents under the Sunshine Law.
The judge listened to arguments by Maki that stated the city was evasive in many answers to questions during the early pre-trial process known as “discovery.”
During the latest virtual hearing, held this past Friday, Steve Coronado, the city’s lead counsel, told the judge Maki’s requests for information are “extremely broad and burdensome.” He also said when Maki moved into the Parkville area in which he lives, an upscale neighborhood that borders the city limits, there already was a plan to develop the area.
Coronado further criticized Maki, stating that Maki had contacted the Missouri Attorney General, the Missouri Auditor and has contributed to continuing press coverage while also attempting to influence Parkville city elections. Coronado argued that while the mayor, city administrator and aldermen have public personas, they also have personal lives and Maki’s numerous requests are unreasonable, too broad, and intrusive.
Maki stated Parkville “officials choose to use private servers to discuss public business,” necessitating the retrieval of the communications from those private servers. He added that the retrieval of information is no more difficult or time consuming “than anyone searching for a utility bill.”
“They made this choice,” Maki said of city officials’ decision to use their private email accounts for some city business communications.
Coronado countered that Maki’s requests for public documents are too broad and, in some cases, “don’t exist.” He added, “All I’m asking is for Mr. Maki to stick to the issues in this case and not go on a fishing trip.”
Maki said the information he is requesting is relevant to the case and that city officials view him as an adversary, which has contributed to a lack of cooperation in releasing documents. He said, “the burden is minimal, and the need is high.”