Organization questioning Sunshine Law violations by Kansas City government on police funding vote

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — New questions have emerged about the controversial Kansas City, Missouri City Council ordinance on police funding that happened back on May 20. Documents obtained by conservative organization Liberty Alliance point to new documents that suggest the vote may have been illegal.

May 20, Jane Brown, the attorney for Mayor Quinton Lucas, sent an email to eight city council members, Lucas and other City employees. It was a request from City Attorney Matt Gigliotti to confirm their agreement to co-sponsor ordinances regarding police funding, before it was brought up at City Council.

A follow up email from Brown specifically instructed recipients to reply individually to the email, rather than a reply all.

“Just like you have somebody at your office and I have somebody in my office who always hits reply to all, Councilman Ellington hit reply to all that made it a meeting and illegal meeting,” attorney Bernie Rhodes said.

Missouri’s Sunshine Law states when the majority of a governmental organization meets, it must be in public so the public knows what is going on.

“This violates not only the technical aspect of the Sunshine Law, but the spirit of the Sunshine Law,” Rhodes said.

Not only was the public left out of this decision process, but the email also excluded four city council members who represent the Northland. Teresa Loar is one of them.

“I have been on four councils now. This is my fourth and my last,” Loar said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The secretiveness and the plotting and the planning, it just seems so odd.”

A same-day vote regarding what has become a controversial police funding ordinance pushed through the afternoon of May 20 took Loar and the others by surprise. All four Northland City Council members voted no on the ordinance, but they passed with yes votes from the City Council members included in the mail. 

“I’ve lived up here for 52 years and have never seen anything so divisive as I have seen in the last six months,” Loar said. “The police thing kind of did it.”

Rhodes said if it is determined these members violated the Sunshine Law, the most serious punishment could be a lawsuit to void the meeting and cancel the police funding ordinances. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt could also take action.

“The AG could fine them, make them go to remedial school, go get their learner’s permit again to study the Sunshine Law,” Rhodes said. “The Sunshine Law serves a purpose. That purpose is thwarted when government officials and their lawyer take measures to purposely evade it. They should be embarrassed about what they’ve done.”

Morgan Said, Lucas’ deputy chief of staff sent a statement regarding the email and other claims made by Liberty Alliance.

Regarding the Mayor’s In-Person Meeting and Staff Outreach to Northland Members:

“No mayor in more than a generation has spent more time in the Northland and channeled more resources to Northland efforts and investments than Mayor Lucas.  The false narrative that Northland councilmembers were excluded is rebutted by the actual facts, should you choose to report them.  Mayor Lucas met in person in the office of a Northland councilman prior to ordinance introduction for a half-hour. The member thanked him for the time, but declined to co-sponsor. The mayor’s office also reached out to all Northland councilmembers, but were unable to get a forum with several prior to ordinance introduction.  Rather than meeting with the mayor, the councilmembers chose to hold a press conference about lacking information instead of actually getting information by reaching back out to the Mayor or his staff. “

Regarding Process:

“There was no substantive discussion of the ordinances via Council group email, as seen from the emails themselves. Due to a requirement from the City Attorney that all co-sponsors share in writing their consent to be co-sponsors, all co-sponsors did so primarily through individual emails, with the exception of one member.  Any claim that there was a prior meeting on substantive policing issues in person or electronically is demonstrably false.  The mayor speaks regularly in person to all councilmembers individually, including the Northland delegation, and will continue to do so.  The ordinances went in front of a full City Council. Every City Council member had a voice and a vote on these items. The meeting was public. The meeting was streamed live. The meeting was recorded. The meeting is available for playback.”

“And, as recently as last month, Councilwoman Hall of the Northland used the same same-day adoption process to introduce an ordinance without public comment to approve the expenditure of millions. This is not a procedural debate, this is about substantive disagreement.”

“While many will continue working to incite fear and to further divide our community, the mayor will continue working to make Kansas City safer after generations of violent crime in our neighborhoods, and to break the status quo in crime prevention and homicide numbers.”

Regarding the Mr. Stamm Text:

“Mr. Stamm or staff reached out to all Northland councilmembers and reported the fact that no sponsors came from the First or Second Districts.”

Regarding Text Messages:

“The mayor does retain text messages. The mayor had no text messages responsive to the sunshine request.”

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