Van Amburg grants Maki’s motion
verruling objections from Parkville’s mayor and aldermen, a judge ruled on Tuesday that the city officials of Parkville must produce discovery materials from their private messaging services as requested via subpoena.
The ruling is part of an open records case in which Jason Maki is suing city officials for failure to release public documents.
The order granted by Platte County Circuit Court Judge James Van Amburg is in response to a brief filed by Maki, a Parkville area resident who is representing himself in the civil court case.
The ruling requires the city to release, among other items, city business-related emails hosted on the private servers of city officials. All electronically stored information must be produced “in its native format and in all cases with metadata preserved.”
The ruling states the city must produce the documents within 10 days of Tuesday’s order, which will be Friday, March 19.
The city’s legal team has argued that officials, which include Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston, City Administrator Joe Parente and the eight-member elected board of aldermen, are under no obligation to produce the documents, in part because they were created and stored on their private email servers instead of city-owned computers using city email addresses.
The attorneys for the mayor and aldermen also argued that the mayor’s and aldermen’s private email communications should be exempt from any document retention requirements imposed on the city, and be treated the same as any regular citizen, despite having admitted they were discussing public business via their private email.
The March 9 ruling specifies that the information must be produced in its “native” format, meaning the original Word document, spread sheet or Outlook email.
In addition, the documents also must preserve all “metadata,” which includes information such as the original author, chain of custody, recipients, file size, date and key words used in the file’s description.
The native production of these documents may allow for forensic inspection of any documents and communications.
However, the judge’s order stopped short of finding the city officials in contempt of court, which Maki had also requested.
In a Feb. 9 court hearing, the team of attorneys from the Kansas City firm Baty Otto Coronado, added that officials already have produced all documents in their possession and couldn’t be held in contempt for withholding documents “they no longer have.”
However, their argument may have opened the door into discussions about the possibility of destruction of evidence by Parkville’s mayor and aldermen, which could carry civil and criminal repercussions for the city, mayor, and aldermen.