Stenger falling short on pledge of transparency

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Shortly after taking the oath of office as county executive on Jan. 1, 2015, Steve Stenger pledged that the county would operate “in an open and transparent manner.”

However, Stenger’s administration has been far less than transparent, particularly regarding its responses to requests made under the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act, also called the Sunshine Law.

Shortly after Stenger took office, University City resident Tom Sullivan, a longtime observer of county government, learned the county executive’s administration was less than transparent.

In a complaint filed with then-Attorney General Chris Koster’s office, Sullivan alleged county officials did not respond to Sunshine Law requests he made within the required period of three business days.

In a June 6, 2015, letter to Stenger, Koster’s office outlined that the law stipulates that Sunshine Law requests must be responded to within three business days and acknowledged that Sullivan had experienced delays in receiving responses to his requests.

Besides sending the letter to Stenger, Koster’s office included five copies of a Missouri Sunshine Law booklet published by the attorney general.

But it would appear that Stenger’s administration continues to drag its feet on Sunshine Law requests.

On Jan. 12, the Call’s Gloria Lloyd requested votes taken during a closed session of the County Council’s Committee of the Whole that took place Jan. 10. On Jan. 23 — 11 days later — County Council Administrative Director Genevieve Frank responded to the request.

The County Council’s Committee of the Whole again met in closed session on Jan. 25. The next day, Lloyd sent a Sunshine Law request to Frank for any votes taken during the closed session.

“Yes. We will respond to that request in compliance with the Section 610.021(3) of the Missouri Sunshine Law,” Frank wrote in a Jan. 26 email to Lloyd.

Despite her statement that she would comply with the Sunshine Law, Frank has yet to respond to Lloyd’s request.

At the Nov. 29 County Council meeting, Stenger became a bit testy when Sullivan reminded him the attorney general’s office had sent five copies of the Sunshine Law booklet to him.

“Everybody gets the guides,” Stenger told Sullivan.

No, the guides are not sent to everyone. But if they are sent to you, perhaps you should actually read them.