Nan Johnston: ‘I was merely cleaning up files’
Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston has testified before an investigatory committee claiming that she did not delete documents from her private email server that were subpoenaed as evidence during a civil lawsuit despite a large of amount of evidence demonstrating she did. (Editor’s note: Facts, evidence submitted and timeline regarding Johnston’s destruction of evidence have been obtained by The Landmark and can be viewed on the Platte County Landmark’s website at this link: https://plattecountylandmark.com/2022/02/02/documents-detail-parkville-mayor-nan-johnstons-alleged-destruction-of-evidence/).
In Johnston’s testimony, she addressed the emails that were deleted from her private email server despite a subpoena and court order to provide them.
“I was merely cleaning up files and not even thinking about that it might look bad,” Johnston testified. Evidence indicates that Johnston deleted an entire email box in addition to the individual files and emails she mentioned.
Johnston also claimed that she had no knowledge that an area resident did not receive the public records he had requested in an open records dispute. That disagreement ended in nearly $450,000 in legal fees and settlement costs to the Parkville taxpayer. The $195,000 settlement is thought to be the largest Sunshine Law settlement in Missouri’s history.
Johnston testified last Wednesday in a meeting of the Parkville Ethics Commission after members were called to investigate behavior alleging Johnston broke the city’s ethics code and violated code governing the conduct and expected behavior of those serving in public office. The complaint, written by resident Elaine Kellerman states Johnston broke the law, the city’s ethics code in several instances and calls for her removal from office.
In her testimony, Johnston told commission members she was surprised to learn Jason Maki, who requested numerous city records under the Sunshine Law, had not received all the documents he requested.
“I was not aware records were not released,” she said. “That was not the intent of the board of aldermen or me. I just thought it was a done deal.”
The Platte County Sheriff’s Department confirmed several months ago that it has launched a criminal investigation into actions by Parkville officials.
During her testimony to the commission, Johnston said she only learned of the sheriff’s investigation into her actions and the City of Parkville when contacted by area media.
She also stated that she has not been interviewed by the sheriff’s department for their investigation.
When reached by telephone, Platte County Sheriff’s Department Major Erik Holland said he could not comment on investigation since it’s ongoing. However, when asked about Johnston’s comment that she had not been contacted by the sheriff’s department about the investigation and only learned of it when contacted by area media, Holland said, “I can’t comment as to the statements by the mayor, but the city is very aware we are conducting an investigation,” he said.
Commissioners asked Johnston why the Maki lawsuit was settled out of court, before going to trial, if the city had done nothing wrong. They asked if a settlement was the directive of the city’s insurance carrier. Johnston said that she knows the answer to that question, but, due to ongoing litigation, thought she should not divulge that information.
When asked this week to comment, Maki stated that the city did not have an insurance carrier involved and “the decision to settle was their own and not influenced or forced by an insurance provider.”
Maki also stated, “it’s silly that the mayor wouldn’t answer that question, it is a matter of public record. Perhaps she’s trying to mislead people by being evasive in her answer.”
Johnston testified: “I think the board just wanted this to be over and decided to settle knowing it would cost a whole lot more (if the case continued).”
She added she was “adamantly opposed” to settling the lawsuit, saying that it was not a unanimous decision.