Roby’s claims of transparency ‘dubious at best,’ reader contends

To the editor:

In Crestwood Mayor Gregg Roby’s rebuttal to Executive Editor Mike Anthony’s editorial regarding the city’s lawsuit against Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Josh Hawley and the Affton Fire Protection District, Mr. Roby makes a crucial debating mistake by failing to address Mr. Anthony’s main argument, which focuses on releasing the record of any votes the Board of Aldermen took in relation to this suit.

Mr. Roby spends a great deal of time touting the city’s commitment to transparency, a claim which, as anyone paying attention to the city’s decisions under Mayor Roby knows, is dubious at best. Examined closely, the honors and awards cited by Mr. Roby are more superficial than meaningful, and are of little use in demonstrating compliance with the true spirit of the Sunshine Law.

Mayor Roby’s tendency towards secrecy started with his decision to withhold from the public UrbanStreet’s proposal for the Crestwood mall property for two weeks after its filing. Mr. Roby’s actions with respect to Sunshine Law issues are more likely guided by a fear of public criticism rather than a deep commitment to open government.

What Mr. Roby fails to grasp is that the Sunshine Law does not obligate any public body to withhold information, it simply delineates when those bodies are permitted to do so. Even then, it is clear from the law that its exceptions are to be strictly construed, and that acting in the best public interest is always paramount.

The Sunshine Law is not intended to serve as a door behind which elected officials can hide politically motivated activities.

One possible explanation for withholding the vote to proceed with the lawsuit is that the vote was not unanimous, and its public disclosure would therefore provide the defendants with information that may help their case. If this is true, then allowing the public to see how their elected officials voted takes on even more significance, as the lack of full legislative support for the suit, while a minor issue in legal arguments, is a major issue for voters.

Residents need to know how their representatives voted as part of their due diligence in evaluating any candidate up for re-election.

As Mr. Anthony asserted, it is past time for Crestwood officials to publicly disclose their votes on moving forward with a suit whose outcome is far from guaranteed, and whose costs could drain the city’s general fund of much-needed revenues.

Martha Duchild

Crestwood

Editor’s note: Mrs. Duchild’s husband, Paul, is a former Ward 3 Crestwood alderman.