Supporters of the Missouri Sunshine Law often have been heard to say the law lacks teeth. Its bite is not strong enough to cause pain. That’s been true in many court decisions.
The city of Raytown, a Kansas City suburb, has been ordered to pay $42,000 in legal fees for an open records request violation.
The issue was the city’s denial of a request for information about the safety of an intersection where a 64-year-old woman was killed in a 2016 traffic accident. The lady’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, which is pending.
Jackson County Circuit Judge S. Margene Burnett said the city clerk of Raytown had adopted a policy of refusing any records to anyone who filed a claim against the city. The judge called it a “knowing and purposeful violation of the Missouri Sunshine Law,” and said the city tried to use the law “as a shield to hide behind.”
The Raytown city attorney said the city will appeal the decision.
Regardless how the appeal does in court, cities should take note of what appears to be an obvious violation of the Sunshine Law.
Every official in every municipality should be familiar with the Sunshine Law, especially city clerks as it pertains to public records and requests for records.