Sunset Hills officials need a Sunshine Law refresher

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

Since January, Sunset Hills aldermen have approved nearly $900,000 in spending for public works, including a Kennerly Road improvement project and a new bucket truck.

Chances are good that most residents were unaware aldermen were going to consider these expenditures, as they were not included on the board’s agenda. Instead, Ward 2 Alderman Tom Musich, who serves as chairman of the Public Works Board, presented the expenditures to aldermen under “Committee Reports.”

In most cases, the Public Works Board met merely an hour before the Board of Aldermen meeting and recommended approval of the expenditures. That certainly doesn’t provide any opportunity for public input.

Adding to the problem is the vagueness of the Public Works Board’s agendas. The board’s June 9 agenda states, “Kennerly Road Improvement Project.” That certainly doesn’t convey the fact that the board was considering recommending approval of a $645,000 contract for the work.

Yet that’s what Musich took to aldermen a little more than an hour later, and the board voted unanimously to award the contract. The Missouri Open Meetings and Records Act, also called the Sunshine Law, requires public entities to post tentative agendas of their meetings “in a manner reasonably calculated to advise the public of the matters to be considered.”

We’d be hard-pressed to believe Sunset Hills has fully complied with that provision of the law. The irony’s not lost on us that both Musich and Mayor Mark Furrer have said they were unaware of items being brought to aldermen for consideration.

For example, Musich contended Feb. 10 that he did not receive enough notice about an agenda item, “Articles of impeachment (if applicable)” with a cap of $25,000.

“I don’t like to receive information for an evening meeting at my office the day of the meeting. It doesn’t give me any time to review and research what I feel needs to be done in order to make an informed decision …,” he said.

Before that meeting, Furrer said he was surprised to see the impeachment issue back on the agenda, saying of aldermen, “They don’t want anybody to know what they’re doing.”

But a month earlier, Furrer attempted to force a vote by aldermen regarding Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler’s Facebook page, an item that was not on the agenda.

For Musich and Furrer, we can only conclude that they’re staunch believers of do as I say, not as I do.