Missouri AG Comes Down Hard on Arnold

22 Jul

Update 1: I was a bit confused. The AG is not asking for the sign-in list for the same date as Doris Borgelt was. They just asked for the list for June 19, the day the AG’s office sent the request. So, while the AG’s action will force the issue of releasability of the lists, we may not get to the bottom of who came to City Hall on Jan. 17, 2012, the date at the heart of this issue.

 

Update 2: Reading is hard. I would like to thank my commenters for pointing out some errors. Let’s summarize the AG’s threatened lawsuit, count by count, for clarity purposes.

1. Arnold failed to give timely response to Borgelt’s request for the sign-in log, made on March 2. The city had three days to respond, but did not respond in writing until June 15 (after the AG’s office got involved). This is a request for declaratory judgment.

2. Arnold did not provide Borgelt with the log, another request for declaratory judgement.

3. Arnold redacted names in the June 19 sign-in list submitted to the AG, request for declaratory judgment.

4. Arnold failed to respond to Borgelt in a timely manner (see count 1), knowing Sunshine Law violation, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

5. Arnold did not provide Borgelt with the log (see count 2), knowing Sunshine Law violation, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

6. Arnold redacted names in the June 19 sign-in list (see count 3), knowing Sunshine Law violation, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

7. Arnold failed to respond to Borgelt in a timely manner (see counts 1 and 4), purposeful Sunshine Law request, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

8. Arnold did not provide Borgelt with the log (see counts 2 and 5), purposeful Sunshine Law request, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

9. Arnold redacted names in the June 19 sign-in list (see counts 3 and 6), purposeful Sunshine Law request, request for civil penalties and attorney’s fees.

10. Injunction against future Sunshine Law violations.

The suit requires the city to provide “the unredacted visitor log” in order to avert this lawsuit. While I imagine each day’s list as as discrete record, it appears that the AG refers to all of the daily sign-in sheets as one log. Therefore, I interpret this to mean the city must provide the lists for both the dates requested by Borgelt AND the AG. From Bob Sweeney’s statements, the log Borgelt wants has been disposed of. One would think then, that the AG’s request cannot be fulfilled, and that the suit must proceed. But I merely play a lawyer on TV, so I welcome (more) corrections.

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I wrote recently about the efforts of the city government in Arnold to keep its city hall sign-in logs private. When we last left off, the city was waiting for the state Attorney General’s response to Arnold’s hubrisitic submission of a redacted Jan. 17 sign-in list. On July 16, the AG responded in not a subtle way: with a threat of a lawsuit.

The AG’s letter calls the city’s claims “absurd” and “meritless” and states that Arnold will be sued with fines and attorney’s fees on the table if the list isn’t provided by July 23. The text of the lawsuit was attached. If you advance to the last page of the embedded document, you can see the redacted list the city sent (from June 19, 2012, as the AG requested) in all its glory.

So this ends the issue, right? Arnold will surely back down, won’t it, especially considering that the mayor said the following on July 12?

Mayor Ron Counts said, during the work session, city employees must provide past visitors’ information to any councilmen requesting the information.

“The public has the right to know who’s in the building,” Mayor Ron Counts said. “I’m happy to provide that information.”

Well, the answer to that is apparently no.

Borgelt said Friday that she had not received what she requested. Sweeney said that’s because the city usually didn’t keep the log for more than 30 days before throwing it out and that the log on the day requested by Borgelt had been discarded.

I can’t imagine the AG will take too kindly to this. We know the council voted in early June to not release the list, so they must have had it then, unless they had already trashed it, and the vote was just a bluff. So who discarded it, when, and at whose direction?

I found these humorous tidbits in the minutes of the June 21 council meeting:

  • “Attorney Sweeney then said he doesn’t believe that the Attorney Generals office is saying that they are going to fine us or call us out for not releasing these log sheets. They have simply said they disagree with our position” (p. 6 of the document). Looks like he believes wrong.
  • “Phil Amato reiterated the Attorney General’s opinion, is just that, an opinion” (p. 7). Um, yeah, but his opinion holds more weight than that of, say, some online commenter, Phil.
  • “[Sweeney] does not think this case has ever been litigated to the Attorney General’s office and feels it would be a good case to litigate” (p. 6). Do you still think that now, Bob? Well, he probably does because that means more legal fees for him.

It seems clear that what happened here was, the crony club thought the AG wouldn’t bother getting involved in a minor municipal matter such as this. Maybe they knew, deep down, that they were in the wrong on this, but since the AG wasn’t going to stop them, they could use bluster and bravado to talk their way out of this problem, while in the meantime trying to portray Doris Borgelt as just some crank. Well, the AG has called their bluff in a big way. And tomorrow, this dispute might move into the courtroom.

Meanwhile, it looks like Arnold is going to stop keeping a written sign-in list. The new policy the council agreed to calls for visitors to surrender an ID and verbally request to visit an employee. So what the city is saying is, “you want to see our public records? Well, we won’t collect them anymore. Ha!” It is amazing to see the city fighting like a wounded animal over this issue. What are they trying to hide?

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8 Responses to “Missouri AG Comes Down Hard on Arnold”

  1. Anonymous July 22, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I must interject a correction here, the redacted log that appears in the lawsuit is the one the AG’s office requested for a date this June, not the log I requested for January.

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    • wrongonred July 22, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Actually that is incorrect, please see Paragraph 33 Section (b). Count II is specific to Councilwoman Borgelt’s Request, Paragraph 33 Section (b) is specifically asking for the production of that record which was the subject of her Sunshine Request.

      (b) Finding that the Visitor Log is an open record, and ordering the disclosure of the same. (The “Visitor Log” referred to in Count 2 is specifically the log requested by Councilwoman Borgelt on 03/05/12.

      Counts I, II, IV, V, VI(2) (these are misnumbered, there are 2 Count VI’s), and VII are all dealing with the failure to produce Ms. Borgelt’s specific request, and the remedy for that (production), Counts III, VI(1), and VIII are dealing with the June 19th redaction that were sent to the AG.

      Respectfully, if you are reading this to think that simply supplying the June 19th log unredacted is the issue here, you are not comprehending what the suit actually says, or have listened to “Sweeney Logic and Law” a bit too much.

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      • wrongonred July 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

        ^ This is in response to the “update” not the above comment. The blacked out paper attached as an exhibit to the suit is the document that Arnold sent the AG for the June 19 log. Only those counts in the suit dealing with redaction are relevant to it. The rest of the Counts are relevant to Councilwoman Borgelt’s request. Sorry for any confusion.

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  2. jcpenknife July 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Yes, I see that now. Thank you.

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