City reaffirms commitment to transparent government

By Mike Anthony

We believe the city of Crestwood is committed to transparency.

As we’ve written before, Crestwood’s policy of recording closed sessions of the Board of Aldermen involving litigation and real-estate matters may be the only one of its kind in Missouri.

City officials recently reaffirmed their commitment to transparency by eating more than $5,000 in legal fees for City Attorney Lisa Stump to review records requested under the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act, also called the Sunshine Law.

The requests took significant staff time to fulfill, but City Administrator Mark Sime told aldermen, “… Because of the state that our IT (Information Technology) Department was in, we were not able to do a quick or accurate pull or search of emails. So we didn’t feel that we could pass on any costs for that to the people making the records request …”

City Clerk Tina Flowers, who serves as the city’s custodian of records, reiterated that position to the board, saying, “As the custodian, if I’m aware that there’s some significant deficiencies within a department and somebody asks for a records request … I do not feel comfortable charging somebody. I don’t think that that’s fair …”

We applaud them for deciding on transparency.

But apparently not everyone in Crestwood is equally committed to that principle. For example, former Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby, who recently filed to challenge Mayor Jeff Schlink in the April 8 election, espoused some disturbing views about the Sunshine Law when he addressed aldermen at their December meeting.

Roby took the inane position of saying it’s “wrong” for the city to disclose the names of people who make Sunshine Law requests. Really?

Residents typically fill out the city’s Request for Public Records form when seeking information from the city. That form, because it’s submitted to and retained by the custodian of records, then becomes a public record, subject to disclosure under the Sunshine Law.

Even more troubling is the fact that two aldermen — Darryl Wallach of Ward 1 and Dan Tennessen of Ward 4 — voiced their support for Roby’s distorted view of the Sunshine Law.

In taking their oaths of office, elected officials solemnly swear to uphold all laws of the state, including the Sunshine Law. That’s awfully hard to do if you haven’t taken the time to read the law. As the adage goes: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”