July 2, 2009
Jefferson City, MO. - The Attorney General's office today filed a lawsuit against the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District and two of its Board of Directors members for violating the state's Sunshine Law by passing and acting on an ordinance to keep selected members of the public from attending their meetings. The lawsuit also names the District and the entire Board of Directors for not providing documents to State Auditor Susan Montee as required by a subpoena.
According to the Attorney General, Board President Joseph L. Washington and Board Secretary/Treasurer Robert Edwards, introduced and voted for a resolution barring a citizen from being on the premises of board meetings for a period of one year. The Board members referenced an ordinance they had passed in October 2008 as justification for the resolution. The Attorney General filed suit because both the ordinance and the resolution are in conflict with the state's Sunshine Law.
"Missouri's Sunshine Law is crystal clear that both state and local governments must be open to the people," Koster said. "Governmental bodies cannot make arbitrary rules to keep our citizens out of the process."
The Attorney General's office is also suing the board for failing to provide financial and other information requested by the State Auditor. When the district failed to provide the information requested by the Auditor in a timely fashion as required by the Sunshine Law, the Attorney General's office requested a subpoena to require the district to provide that information. The suit was filed today in St. Louis County circuit court.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties from Defendants Washington and Edwards for each knowing and purposeful violation.