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The Lake News Online
  • AG questions commission over alleged Sunshine Law violation

  • A complaint filed with the Missouri Attorney General's office alleging the Camden County Commission has violated the Missouri Sunshine Law is getting mixed reactions.
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    • About the Missouri Sunshine Law

      The Missouri Sunshine Law defines a public meeting as "any meeting of a public governmental body subject to sections 610.010 to 610.030 in state statutes at which any public business is discusse...

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      About the Missouri Sunshine Law

      The Missouri Sunshine Law defines a public meeting as "any meeting of a public governmental body subject to sections 610.010 to 610.030 in state statutes at which any public business is discussed, decided or public policy formulated."



      Meetings for public governmental bodies need to be announced with a public meeting notice, which generally needs to be posted at least 24 hours in advance. The law does allow governmental bodies to meet in closed sessions. However, closed meetings are limited to personnel issues, real estate transactions and legal matters. Any votes taken during those sessions are subject to disclosure after 72 hours.

  • A complaint filed with the Missouri Attorney General's office alleging the Camden County Commission has violated the Missouri Sunshine Law is getting mixed reactions.
    Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber alleges county commissioners consistently skirt the Sunshine Law while Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken and Associate Commissioner Bev Thomas disagree. They say the commission has not violated the Sunshine Law.
    Franken said anyone can allege anything to the Missouri Attorney General's office without proof and the AG’s office has to investigate it.
    The Sunshine Law is frequently referred to as the open meetings law.
    The law governs how governmental entities handle meetings.
    County commissioners were notified of the complaint in a May 2 letter from the attorney general's office. The letter states, "the complainant has alleged that multiple decisions concerning the county have been made outside of a properly noticed public meeting, and as such no notice was provided to the public. And there are no meeting minutes to provide a record of the decisions that were made."
    The complainant specifically cited the commission's decision to appoint Franken as the interim director of the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission and the commission's decision to hire two more attorneys. The complaint alleges there is no record of the decisions being discussed or voted on during commission meetings.
    As far as Franken's appointment as interim director being a violation of the Sunshine Law, Franken and Thomas said it wasn't. There wasn't any action taken on it because, in their view, it was not an appointment.
    "In regards to Commissioner Franken being the interim planning and zoning director, to my recollection, the discussion was that he had managed that position when Chris Hall left and he would do so again since he had the experience. There was not a vote." Thomas said. "For me, it was not an appointment, it was a continuation of the planning and zoning department which is directly under the office of the commission. As presiding commissioner, it was Kris's duty to keep the department running."
    Franken said since the department falls directly under the discretion of the commission and the department must operate, the management of the office is the responsibility of the commission.
    He managed the office before and offered to do so, again.
    "I am the only person on the commission with development and land use experience, so it was logical for me to manage it until we found a new administrator. Further, because I am the only commissioner elected at large in the county, I am the only one that could deal with every case that came into the office." Franken said. "There was not any opposition within the commission for me to perform the duty. No one was officially appointed to the position, and there was no vote taken regarding this issue."
    Page 2 of 2 - Franken said the commission has not violated the Sunshine Law in any respect regarding this complaint, "and I do not believe that we have ever violated the Sunshine Law."
    Thomas said as far as she is aware the commission has not violated the Sunshine Law.
    Luber disagrees. He has a different opinion on how the commission is conducting some business. He said the recent complaint from the attorney general's office comes as no surprise as the people's business should be discussed in the open and properly noticed.
    "A matter as important as determining an interim planning and zoning administrator should have been noticed, and a vote taken, even though planning and zoning comes under the direction of the commission," Luber said. "Once again, there is no record. Don't the people have a right to know?"
    Luber said he has attended classes on the Sunshine Law and questioned Franken in February 2013, two months after taking office, regarding the manner in which he was conducting meetings in which notice was not given and an agenda was not made, yet county business decisions were made.
    "He advised me it has always been done this way since before he came into office. He has unilaterally waived planning and zoning fees with no agenda and no vote being taken without the knowledge of the commission. Acting as a government of one," Luber said. "County business continues to be discussed that will/could lead to a vote after regular commission meetings have adjourned, a quorum is still present and, unfortunately, a weekly standard operating procedure in the commission office, and in my opinion, is a violation of the Sunshine Law."
    It is unclear what two attorneys the complaint references. Based on what information was available, Franken and Thomas said they were assuming the reference was to the county attorney and planning and zoning legal representative. Those attorneys have been with the county for quite some time and were not recently hired.
    The next step requires the commission to respond to the attorney general's office by May 23 with the appropriate documents.
    It will be up to the attorney general's office to determines if there is reason to believe there was a violation of the Sunshine Law.
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