Jefferson City, MO (STL.News) – Yesterday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that his office is filing a lawsuit against the city of Garden City for disbanding most of their police department in a vote behind closed doors, a violation of Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Located in Cass County, Garden City voted to disband most of its police department in a vote held by the Board of Aldermen in November of 2018.
“Citizens have a right to know about decisions that their local governments and municipalities make that directly affect them. The Missouri Sunshine Law ensures transparency in government, and as Attorney General, it’s my duty to protect and enforce the Sunshine Law,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Cities have to make tough financial decisions all the time, but voting on major decisions like this shouldn’t be held behind closed doors. It’s my hope that this lawsuit will provide more transparency for the residents of Garden City and assure that future votes are open to the public.”
The lawsuit was filed yesterday in Cass County. In the petition, the Attorney General’s Office alleges that the City of Garden City “improperly shielded from public view a vote to reduce or disband the City’s police force, an important matter of public concern that is not authorized to be closed under the Sunshine Law.”
The petition further notes, “Garden City citizens were deprived of the opportunity to voice their views about the matter until after the City’s Board of Aldermen voted to reduce or disband the police department behind closed doors. By then, it was too late.”
Attorney General Schmitt also took action in a previous suit against the City of Wood Heights for disbanding their police department in a vote behind closed doors.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has resources and information online, including a Sunshine Law booklet and data dashboard. Citizens can also file Sunshine Law complaints online.