South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Crestwood Ward 3 alderman selected to receive MPA 2001 Sunshine Award

Crestwood Ward 3 alderman selected to receive MPA 2001 Sunshine Award

This is a “blast from South County’s past” from the past 30 years of The Call’s archives. Originally published Aug. 9, 2001. Stay tuned for more glimpses into the area’s history.

A Crestwood alderman has been selected by the Missouri Press Association Board of Directors to receive an MPA Sunshine
Award for 2001. Ward 3 Alderman James Robertson will receive the award Saturday, Oct. 6, during the 135th annual Missouri Press Association Convention and Trade Show at the Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark.

The MA Board of Directors established the annual award in July 1998. The award honors a person or persons who demonstrate unwavering support for open government and for the state’s Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly called the Sunshine Law.

Robertson told the Call Sunday he was pleased just to be nominated for the honor.

“To be selected, that’s a privilege and I’m thrilled about that,” he said.

Robertson is one of two MPA Sunshine Award recipients this year. Also selected to receive a Sunshine Award is 15-year-old
Lindsay Rhodes of Liberty. Robertson last fall raised questions about the city of Crestwood’s responses to the Call’s requests for information regarding the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city by developer Sebastian Rucci.

Mike Anthony, executive editor of Call Newspapers in St. Louis, nominated Robertson for the award, “based on his actions in ensuring that Crestwood residents and the media will have open access to both governmental records and meetings.”

“What began last summer as a fairly routine story about the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city of Crestwood by a developer became a much larger story that ultimately led to the resignation of Crestwood’s longtime city attorney and the drafting of a new open meetings and records policy for the city,” Anthony wrote in his nomination letter.

“This newspaper’s efforts to obtain information about the settlement of that lawsuit were stymied by city officials, particularly the city administrator and city attorney. In response to Sunshine Law requests made by this newspaper, city officials on two occasions denied the existence of a settlement agreement. In a letter to Mayor Jim Brasfield, Alderman Robertson raised questions about the city’s responses to the Call’s requests for information about the settlement of the lawsuit and termed the city’s responses to the Call’s requests hypertechnical,” Anthony wrote.

As a result of the alderman’s actions, the Board of Aldermen voted 7-1 to adopt a new open meetings and records policy, drafted by newly appointed City Attorney Robert Golterman, stating that “meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations” of the board “shall be open to the public unless permitted by statute and as determined by the board.”

The new policy also stipulates that minutes will be taken of closed meetings of the board involving legal and real estate matters.

In his nomination letter, Anthony wrote, “Ironically, the dissenting vote was cast by Alderman Robertson, who said, ‘I think what was done Tuesday night (Jan. 23) was a big step forward. I was, however, prepared to go a step further.”

Robertson had sought the tape recording of closed sessions to ensure that accurate minutes would be taken and to ensure that only matters for which the closed session was called would be discussed, but was overruled by his colleagues.

Crestwood’s new opening meetings and records policy, however, should prevent the situation that occurred last summer when board members offered differing recollections of what occurred during a closed session to discuss the settlement of the Rucci lawsuit.

Some aldermen had emphatically stated that a $50,000 cap had been set. Another said no cap was established and others could not recall the specifics of the closed session, which took place June 27, 2000.

Call Newspapers General Manager Bill Milligan said he was pleased the MPA Board of Directors selected Robertson to receive the Sunshine Award.

“It’s extremely rare to find an elected official who not only cares about the public’s right to know, but who actually has the courage to publicly take a stand on ensuring the public’s access to governmental meetings and records,” Milligan said. “Crestwood residents are lucky to have such an official representing their interests.”

Noting that he considers “public service to be a privilege,” Robertson said it was very gratifying to be recognized for “standing up and doing the right thing at a point in time when it wasn’t easy to do it

“That’s very satisfying.” He added, “This is a very, very exciting thing for me.”

Lindsay was nominated for a Sunshine Award by Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia, editor of Sun-News Publications. While a pupil at Liberty Junior High School, Lindsay surveyed 22 public school districts in Clay, Platte and Jackson counties to determine if they were following the Missouri Sunshine Law. Her project became the subject of a front-page story in the Liberty Sun-News.

“Lindsay and James have demonstrated individual concern and determination regarding Sunshine Law matters in their communities,” MA President Wendell Lenhart, publisher of the Trenton Republican-Times, stated in an MPA news release. “On behalf of the public and the Missouri Press Association, we want them to know how much we appreciate them carrying the banner for open meetings and open records, for the public’s right to know, and for the First Amendment.”

Sunshine Award nominees may be any citizen of Missouri such as a city, school, county or state official or a local resident – anyone who has displayed exemplary support in promoting the Missouri Sunshine Law. Nominations for 2002 may be submitted to the MPA.

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