KC Star sues Clay County Commission over ‘illegal meeting,’ closed-door minutes

CLAY COUNTY, Mo. – FOX4's investigation into county government in Clay County led to other news agencies investigating, too.

Now, the county’s response to the Kansas City Star has landed it in the middle of another lawsuit.

The lawsuit says a reporter requested public records from an “illegal, secret meeting” held in June 2016 when the commission agreed to hire Kansas City law firm Spencer Fane.

“This is a law firm that the commission hired," County Clerk Megan Thompson said. "I never got minutes on how he was hired and who voted upon this.”

Thompson said her office handled Missouri Sunshine Law requests from January 2015 when she took office until early 2017 when the commission gave the duties to a law firm.

“It is a waste of money for us to spend $370 an hour on a high-priced attorney to handle Sunshine requests when I used to do this myself and no additional cost to the taxpayers," she said.

The lawsuit alleges the commission went into closed session to discuss legal matters and that no minutes or notes were recorded to show the hiring of the firm.

Spencer Fane’s attorney told the Star reporter it would cost $4,200 for him to review the documents the reporter requested to determine what, if anything, he’d share.

“It’s kind of ironic that the commission, who said that they took over record requests to avoid costly lawsuits, are now being sued for not following Sunshine Law," Thompson said.

She continued: “How much more money are we throwing out the door by not doing things and following the law?”

FOX4 emailed the county and the attorney for Spencer Fane. Here is the statement the county issued Tuesday afternoon:

The County objects to the false allegations made by The Kansas City Star. The county is and has been in full compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Law, and has made every effort to provide the requested information in an efficient, careful and ethical manner.

We call upon The Kansas City Star, which happens to be the plaintiff in this case, to objectively report on the facts at hand: a well-established and orderly process was followed to accommodate their request. In addition, as of 3 p.m. this afternoon, there was no lawsuit available from the Clay County Circuit Court, and our office was not given the opportunity to comment on this article in advance of its publication.

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