Largest Sunshine settlement in state history
he City of Parkville announced Wednesday morning it has entered into a settlement agreement regarding a civil lawsuit filed in 2020 that alleged the city had committed multiple violations of the state’s open meetings and open records law.
Plaintiff in the case is Jason Maki, who resides near Parkville. Under terms of the agreement, the city will pay Maki $195,000.
It is believed to be the largest Sunshine Law settlement in state history.
In addition, the city has already paid out more than $200,000 in legal fees in defense of the lawsuit, according to public records.
In a news release, the city states “the settlement resolves all current and future claims that could have been brought arising from the multiple Sunshine Law records requests that formed the basis of the lawsuit.”
From 2018 to 2021, the city responded to 43 separate requests that included 142 categories of open records from Maki, regarding various City of Parkville topics and public projects.
The city says it responded to the requests and produced more than 110,000 public records during that time. Ultimately, Maki filed a lawsuit over alleged violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law that the city news release says “has been ongoing, expensive and contentious, but has now been resolved between Maki and the city.”
In settling the lawsuit, the city believes it complied with the records requests and continues to deny any liability for the actions alleged in the lawsuit. Further, the settlement agreement specifically provides the city’s agreement does not constitute an admission of any liability.
“In considering the lawsuit’s dismissal, the city agreed to make a one-time payment to Mr. Maki for $195,000. Additionally, as part of the settlement agreement, Mr. Maki stated that the city’s custodian of records properly fulfilled its obligations and (she) did not violate the Missouri Open Records Act,” the city’s news release states.
The city’s custodian of records is Melissa McChesney, city clerk.
The city’s press release states: “The city settled the lawsuit in the best interests of the citizens, both financially and operationally. The taxpayers’ costs for continued litigation including the future legal expenses associated with depositions, a trial and potential appeals (even with a successful result for the city) are projected to exceed the settlement agreement payment. The litigation could have lasted several years with continued disruptions negatively impacting the city’s officials and staff’s work in providing the highest level of public services. For these reasons, the city believes it makes economic sense to move on for the benefit of the city taxpayers.”
The press release goes on to state:
“The City of Parkville recognizes the importance of Missouri’s Sunshine Law Act and shares a commitment to openness in government. The city promotes transparency in government in various ways, including the way we communicate with citizens. We will continue to do this and always strive to find ways to improve. We look forward to continued dedication in serving the needs of our residents.”
Look for more on this topic, including comments from Maki, in next week’s edition of The Landmark.