Crestwood city attorney promotes a cloudy view of Sunshine Law

To the editor:

Thanks to the Call Newspapers for publishing the unredacted and redacted emails regarding Crestwood City Administrator Mark Sime’s attempt to reclassify the city clerk’s position.

By printing both versions, the Call has underscored how important the Sunshine Law is to transparency, and why transparency is vital to good government. By contrasting the original emails with the sanitized versions received under a Sunshine Law request, the newspaper put in stark relief how Crestwood City Attorney Lisa Stump’s heavy-handed use of the redacting marker prevented the public from viewing another version of events.

By withholding information that contradicted Mr. Sime’s version of how the reclassification ordinance — which would have violated the City Charter — originated and why it was withdrawn, Ms. Stump kept from public view information that cast doubt on the explanation Mr. Sime provided to aldermen and the public.

This is not the first time the city has struggled with Sunshine Law issues.

Just a few months ago, the city’s Civil Service Board violated the Sunshine Law by failing to post a meeting on a grievance appeal.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office has been consistent in its response to city violations, emphasizing that the provisions of the Sunshine Law are to be liberally construed and its exceptions strictly construed.

As the Call article highlights, the city attorney used very broad brush strokes in liberally applying the law’s exceptions, yet offered no evidence to support the exceptions she cited as reasons for redacting entire passages of text. This is not the first time Ms. Stump has been reminded that her interpretation of the law’s exceptions is not as narrow as it should be.

This clumsy and far-reaching attempt to control information coming from City Hall should not go unchecked. Chief among the consequences of withholding information is lack of trust. If Crestwood citizens are to place their trust in government, then those in position of governing need to demonstrate a profound respect for transparency, not just in word, but in deed.