Latest arguments heard in Parkville case
Platte County judge heard more arguments on Friday in a case in which a Parkville area man is suing the City of Parkville for unfilled records requests under the Sunshine Law.
Jason Maki filed a civil suit this past February in an ongoing dispute between he and Parkville officials about Sunshine requests for public records. The law is designed to safeguard government transparency. The overall suit centers on dozens of requests for correspondence between city officials aimed at disclosing the city’s decision-making practices. Friday’s hearing was held to hear oral arguments from both sides involving Maki’s search for information during a portion of the suit known as “discovery,” which Maki summarized.”
The city is not participating in discovery in good faith,” Maki told the judge during Friday’s hearing. “They may claim they have, but they have not.”
On Friday, Judge James Van Amburg took under advisement the arguments of Maki, who is representing himself, and Jacob Bielenberg, one of five attorneys the city has hired to defend itself. Maki recently filed a motion to find city elected officials and the city administrator in contempt of court for not producing documents requested through subpoena. A hearing on that matter has been scheduled for Friday, Dec. 11.
In Maki’s lawsuit he has claimed that the city has charged him excessive and illegal fees, withheld documents paid for in full, improperly “closed” records as not being available to the public, and only provided altered documents before delivering them to Maki. Under the law, governments are allowed to charge nominal fees for searching for and producing materials.
During Friday’s hearing Maki asked the judge to “order the city to produce the documents (he) requested in discovery so he can rely on the court’s order and not the city’s word.” Maki went on to provide the judge multiple examples of the city’s previous failures to produce documents requested under Sunshine in a timely manner or at all.
However, Bielenberg said, “to the extent that my office has these documents, we have produced them.”Maki responded to Bielenberg’s comments by stating “your honor, Mr. Bielenberg’s comment is very telling and confirms my concerns that Parkville is only producing what they want to produce,” suggesting that the city’s attorneys may be distancing themselves from the city’s conduct of not producing documents.
Bilenberg stated the city has demonstrated nothing but “willingness to provide documents. We’ve conducted this review in good faith,” he told the judge. “If we were being evasive, we never would have turned those documents over,” Bielenberg said, adding that the city needs further “guidance and clarification to get to the merits of the case.”
Maki, who is an information technology specialist, held up several documents he obtained through other means and began asking, “Why do I have hundreds of documents they’re not producing? Where are the IT invoices? Where are the IT communications? Why do I have these documents? Not just one or two missing documents. Why do I have hundreds of documents that are responsive to my discovery requests that the city has not produced?”
Maki also stated “It should lead the court to ask, ‘what is going on?'” he said.
Some of the information originally requested under Sunshine reaches back to the city’s first dealings, more than two years ago, with a local developer, Brian Mertz, whom city officials are contracting with to build a more-than-350-acre development, currently under construction, known as Creekside.
Maki joined other residents in forming Citizens for a Better Parkville, which has used social media platforms to accuse the city of hiding information about the city’s processes. The group claims the city negotiated out of public light with Mertz, and only held public hearings to get the public’s viewpoint after key decisions were reached. Citizens have claimed they were not allowed input during the process and their viewpoints were not considered. However, city officials have argued they acted according to the law, hosting public forums to allow citizens to speak their minds.