Another Sunshine Law complaint prompts a state review
he Missouri Attorney General’s Office is once again investigating the City of Parkville’s actions in regard to Sunshine Law matters.
On Friday, Nov. 12, the City of Parkville was informed by the office of Eric Schmitt, Missouri Attorney General, that the attorney general’s office has received a complaint of a Sunshine Law violation and “the purpose of this correspondence is to inform you that the attorney general’s office is reviewing this matter to ensure compliance with the Sunshine Law.”
The notification to the city was sent to the city’s custodian of records by email. It was signed by Casey Lawrence, director of Sunshine Law Compliance for the attorney general’s office.
Lawrence’s notification to the city says, in part: “We ask that you provide a written response to the allegations in this complaint in order to assist our office’s review of this matter. Please do so as soon as possible, but no later than Dec. 3, 2021.”
The letter from the attorney general also tells the city: “We would also like to review a copy of the city’s Sunshine Law policy.”
The latest complaint against the city was made to the attorney general’s office in early August by Elaine Kellerman, a Parkville resident, shortly after she had made a Sunshine request dealing with the city’s $195,000 settlement with Jason Maki in a civil lawsuit over alleged Sunshine Law violations.
“I made a Sunshine request to the City of Parkville requesting records associated with the settlement agreement and release between the city and Jason Maki,” Kellerman says. “In response to this request, I received several documents which had been redacted. The city claimed the redactions were due to attorney/client privilege. However, in reviewing the documents it was clear that these communications were solely between municipal officials. No attorneys were included in the communications,” she says, adding that makes the city’s claims of attorney/client privilege “impossible.”
Kellerman adds that she believes “the city’s improper, and possibly illegal,” redactions are a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
Kellerman said she was informed via letter from the attorney general’s office that the office is now investigating the matter. She shared a copy of the letter from the attorney general’s office with The Landmark.
In the letter to Kellerman, the attorney general’s office writes: “In order to conduct a thorough investigation, our review of this matter may take up to a few months.”
The attorney general’s office wrote to Kellerman that “following our review, our office will decide how to resolve this matter. We will contact you at that point. We will also contact you during our review if we have additional questions.”
A couple of years back, the attorney general’s office was investigating Sunshine complaints made against the city by Jason Maki. The attorney general’s office later paused that review when Maki filed his civil lawsuit against the city, saying in essence it would let the courts decide the issue.
After lengthy litigation on the topic, Maki last summer accepted a $195,000 settlement offer from the city and the lawsuit was dropped. It is believed to be the largest Sunshine Law settlement in the history of Missouri.