he open records lawsuit against the City of Parkville continues to get more interesting. As the case develops, there are some fascinating motions and responses to motions on the table for Judge James Van Amburg to rule upon.
Parkville owns by far the most over-the-top motion to this point, as this week the city filed a response to one of plaintiff Jason Maki’s motions and in the process asked the judge to issue sanctions upon Maki. It is asking the judge to place a gag order upon Maki, asking that Maki be ordered to “cease direct communications with the news media and social media outlets until the conclusion of this litigation.”
Isn’t it funny that a city being sued for alleged secret communications and withholding public records would ask for a ruling that it believes would take the court proceedings into some form of darkness? The city responds to allegations that it’s not being open, honest and transparent by asking for more darkness and less public attention. You can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, we reported the city’s request for a gag order on our social media platforms on Tuesday, and public ridicule upon city officials for their position on this soon began. I’m not sure this was a wise move on their part.
Since The Landmark is the only media outlet that has been covering the Sunshine case and The Landmark was specifically mentioned in the city’s filing, you can safely assume the city wants Maki not to talk to this newspaper.
Here’s breaking news for the city folks naively asking for a gag order on Maki, now that you’ve embarrassed yourselves again: A gag order on the plaintiff wouldn’t change a thing. Our coverage of the case has consisted of quoting from the public documents filed by each side, as well as watching/listening in on the hearings. A gag order upon Maki isn’t going to change any of that. A gag order upon Maki, even in the unlikely event one is approved by the judge, cannot stop this newspaper, nor any other media outlet, from covering the lawsuit.
So like it or not, city officials are going to have to put on their big boy/big girl pants and deal with the spotlight.
As one of Hall of Fame journalist stated after hearing of the city’s request: “What cistern are Parkville officials drinking out of?”
If city officials were worried about negative publicity I would suggest they shouldn’t have been withholding public documents. Instead, city officials’ refusal to turn over public records to this point has already cost the city $86,000 in legal fees, and the case is far from over. That’s taxpayer money being used as a defense fund for mysterious behavior by the mayor, aldermen and city administrator.
Good grief, Parkville. What’s in those documents you don’t want to make public?
It’s interesting to read the city’s latest filing. In it, the city’s legal counsel says “there is no evidence city officials kept all communications” when it comes to city business emails and texts the city’s elected officials sent from their private accounts. Considering the city was under a preservation order not to destroy records, this seems to be an admission that someone has in fact destroyed evidence.
Remember, Maki has told the court he has records he obtained from other sources, records that the city officials did not turn over in response to subpoenas.
Based on their own filing, the Parkville officials are conducting city business discussions via private email accounts and private text messages and then officials are not retaining those records. This in effect creates a secret passageway out of public light. If this is allowed as a legal practice, watch for it to become common practice for every tax-supported unit of government in the state of Missouri.
A dangerous thought.
While the girls say he’s cute, let me say if there is a worse actor than Mario Lopez the universe has yet to find him. Praise Jesus, amen.
You’ll see in his Ponder the Thought column on page 3 that our buddy and contributing Landmark columnist Guy Speckman is recovering from a recent bout with COVID-19. I know. This is news to me as well. As you probably know, former Savannah newspaper publisher Speckman submits his column from his palatial estate in Savannah, so we actually meet up in person like once every three years or so. Mostly it’s by text and email, except for the rare occasion when we go old school and actually make a phone call. But still. The lack of a ‘hey, buddy, I got the COVID’ notification on this is disturbing. I missed out on the chance to pester him with daily “feeling any better yet?” texts.
It’s true. When he sent in his column for this week was the first I’d heard of his illness. Inexcusable, really. His COVID-19 diagnosis was five weeks ago. Gotta say my feelings are more than a little hurt that he didn’t consult with me at the time. I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., and Scrubs to give advice on medical matters. Bonus points for a couple episodes of Dr. Quinn–Medicine Woman, House, General Hospital, heck even Marcus Welby, M.D. back in the day. I’m damn near a surgeon at this point.
Listen, while I’m thrilled he kept writing during his fight and thankful he has recovered, the lack of respect for the buddy code from Speckman is appalling, quite frankly. There goes his Christmas bonus, and I’m filing a report with The Landmark HR department. Been there. Trust me, once HR gets involved he’ll have no need for a colonoscopy. So he can Ponder that Thought over the holidays. Guy Speckman. More like No Respectman, am I right? Up top (insert virtual high five right here).
(You can find Ivan Foley covering “nothing to see here” lawsuits and handing out questionable medical advice. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)