Missouri attorney general sues Garden City for disbanding police department

GARDEN CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Monday that his office is filing a lawsuit against Garden City, Missouri for disbanding most of their police department in a vote behind closed doors.

Schmitt said this was a violation of Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

In November 2018, Garden City voted to disband most of its police department in a vote held by the Board of Aldermen.

Schmitt said people in Garden City have a right to know about decisions that their local governments and municipalities make that directly affect them.

“Cities have to make tough financial decisions all the time, but voting on major decisions like this shouldn’t be held behind closed doors,” Schmitt said. “It’s my hope that this lawsuit will provide more transparency for the residents of Garden City and assure that future votes are open to the public.”

In the petition, the attorney general’s office alleges that the Garden City “improperly shielded from public view a vote to reduce or disband the City’s police force, an important matter of public concern that is not authorized to be closed under the Sunshine Law.”

The petition further notes, “Garden City citizens were deprived of the opportunity to voice their views about the matter until after the City’s Board of Aldermen voted to reduce or disband the police department behind closed doors. By then, it was too late.”

FOX4 tried several times in November 2018 to speak with Garden City Mayor Daniel Cantrell about disbanding the police department. Cantrell blamed city budget issues for the layoffs.

Originally the City of Garden City laid off every officer in the department except for the police chief. The police chief, Tom Alber was then suspended pending an investigation, according to Cantrell. Cantrell would not say what the investigation at the time regarded.

Cantrell did post on Facebook during that time saying “we in the city are sad that this is what it has come to due to the budget of the city. We simply can no longer continue to travel down this road.”

Click or tap here to read the full statement.

FOX4 reached out to Cantrell Monday about the lawsuit. He said “no comment” and hung up before a complete question could be asked.

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