Sunshine Law FAQs

FAQs – Public Government Body

How much can a public governmental body charge for records requests?
Section 610.026.1(1), RSMo, allows a public governmental body to charge up to 10 cents per page for standard paper copies, the average hourly rate of pay for clerical staff to duplicate documents, and the actual cost of the research time for fulfilling the request. This provision also requires that the public governmental body use the lowest salaried employees capable of searching, researching, and copying the records. Fees for accessing records on other media, or non-standard paper copies, shall reflect actual cost involved. The requestor may wish to ask for a breakdown of the costs associated with the request to determine how the public governmental body arrived at the final charge.
Our board goes in to closed session and we don’t know what they are going to talk about. Don’t they have to let us know why they are closing the meeting?
Yes. Section 610.022, RSMo, requires that public governmental bodies give at least 24 hours notice of each proposed closed meeting and the reason for holding it by reference to the specific exception allowed under § 610.021, RSMo. Section 610.022, RSMo, also states that no public governmental body can move from an open meeting into a closed meeting without a roll call vote, and that the vote and the specific section of § 610.021, RSMo, shall be publicly announced and entered in to the minutes.
I was told my request would be ready in 2 weeks. Doesn’t the Sunshine Law say they have to give me the records in 3 days?
Section 610.023.3, RSMo, requires that each request be responded to as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the third business day following the custodian of records’ receipt of the request. If access is not granted immediately, the custodian of records is required to explain the reason for the delay and the earliest date and time that the records will be available. Therefore, public governmental bodies are allowed to exceed the three days for production, but they are required to notify you of the delay and explain when they anticipate the records will be ready.
Can a public governmental body add items to the agenda after it has been posted?
Section 610.020.1, RSMo, requires public governmental bodies to post a notice and a tentative agenda for each meeting, and that the agenda be constructed in a manner reasonably calculated to advise the public of the matters to be considered. Further, § 610.020.2, RSMo, requires that this notice be posted at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. However, § 610.020, RSMo, includes an exception that, if for good cause, 24 hours notice is impossible or impractical, the public governmental body shall give as much notice as possible. Also, the nature of the good cause justifying the departure from normal requirements shall be stated in the minutes.
Members of the board get together and talk about business outside of meetings. Is that a violation?
Under the Sunshine Law, a meeting takes place when a majority or quorum of a public governmental body gathers to discuss or vote on public business (§ 610.010(5), RSMo, and Colombo v. Buford, 935 S.W.2d 690 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996)). Therefore, if less than a quorum of the public body meets to discuss public business, it is not a “meeting” as defined under the Sunshine Law. However, the Sunshine Law will apply to meetings of groups with less than a quorum when the entity is deliberately attempting to evade the Sunshine Law. See, Colombo, cited above. For example, a public governmental body may not purposely meet in groups with less than a quorum to discuss public business and then ratify those decisions in a subsequent public meeting.
Board members e-mail each other about public business – is that considered a meeting?
Pursuant to § 610.010(5), RSMo, a public meeting exists when a public body meets and public business is discussed, decided, or public policy is formulated. A single e-mail about an issue would not in and of itself constitute a meeting requiring advance notice. However, by § 610.025, RSMo, any member of a public governmental body who sends
an e-mail relating to public business to a majority of the body shall also send a copy to the member’s public office computer or to the custodian of records to be retained as a public record.
A requestor refuses to use our request form and sends numerous e-mails with requests for records. Can we require that they fill out our standard request form?
Section 610.023.3, RSMo, requires that each request for access to public records is to be responded to as soon as possible; it does not specify a manner in which these requests must be submitted. Therefore, a public governmental body may ask that requestors fill out a form, but it can’t require them to do so.
Who can impose penalties for Sunshine Law violations?
Only a court can impose penalties if it finds that the Sunshine Law has been violated, and penalties are assessed only if the violation is found to be knowing or purposeful. A court may also void any action that was taken in violation of the law, but it is at the court’s discretion, after considering if it is in the public interest to do so.
How may we state our motion when we want to enter into a closed session?
One sample motion is: “I move that this meeting be closed, and that all records and votes, to the extent permitted by law, pertaining to and/or resulting from this closed meeting be closed under Section 610.021, subsection(s) ___, RSMo, for the purpose of (insert the language of the provision(s) cited).”

Please note that the public governmental body should only cite those subsections that are applicable to the material it intends to close (not a standard list of several subsections).

Who is subject to the Sunshine Law?

To determine if the Sunshine Law applies to a body, refer to the definition of public governmental body in § 610.010, RSMo, p. 4, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • public bodies created by state constitution or statutes;
  • public bodies created by order or ordinance of any political subdivision or district; judicial entities when operating in an administrative capacity;
  • public bodies created by executive order, including:
    • any advisory committee or commission appointed by the governor by executive order;
    • any department or division of the state;
    • any department or division of any political subdivision of the state;
    • any department or division of any county or of any municipal government;
    • any department or division school district;
    • any department or division of a special purpose district including but not limited to sewer districts and water districts; and other subdistricts of any political subdivision;
  • any other legislative or administrative governmental deliberative body under the direction of three or more elected or appointed members having rulemaking or quasi-judicial power; and
  • certain committees or advisory boards appointed by any of the above entities.
    Note: The custodian of records of any public governmental body shall maintain a list of the policy advisory committees described in this section.

Or, a body may qualify as a quasi-governmental body under the Sunshine Law, which is defined in § 610.010(4), RSMo, p. 5, and includes, but is not limited to:

  • any person, corporation or partnership organized or authorized to do business in this state by the provisions of chapter 352, 353, or 355,
    RSMo, or an unincorporated association which either:
    • has as its primary purpose to:
      • enter into contracts with public governmental bodies; or
      • engage primarily in activities carried out pursuant to an agreement
        or agreements with public governmental bodies; or
      • performs a statutorily-based public function to:
        • allocate or issue tax credits, tax abatement, public debt, tax-exempt debt, rights of eminent domain; or
        • contract leaseback agreements on structures whose annualized payments commit public tax revenues.
      • any association that directly accepts the appropriation of money from a public
        governmental body, but only to the extent that a meeting, record, or vote
        relates to such appropriation.

FAQs – Law Enforcement

Should a juvenile’s name be redacted from a police report before being released pursuant to a Sunshine Law request?
Section 610.100, RSMo, does not directly address the names of juveniles, but another statute that should be considered is § 211.321.3, RSMo, which states: “Peace officers’ records . . . of children . . . shall not be open to inspection or their contents disclosed, except by order of the court.”
Are criminal records related to a case with a suspended imposition of sentence open or closed records?
If an individual receives a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS), the records are open during the period of probation. Once the individual successfully completes the period of probation, the records are then closed.
Section 610.105, RSMo.
Are motorists involved in automobile accidents entitled to an accident report, even if the case is under review with the prosecutor about pending charges?
Generally, a person who was “involved in any incident or whose property is involved in an incident” is entitled to records that might otherwise be closed, including an accident report, “for purposes of investigation of any civil claim or defense.” This includes the individual’s lawyer, insurance company, or close family member. Section 610.100.4, RSMo. See also the next question, below.
Under what circumstances can a police agency deny access to police reports that might otherwise be open?
Sections 610.100.3 and 610.100.4, RSMo, state that the agency has the authority to withhold the disclosure of records that may otherwise be subject to disclosure under two circumstances. First, if the agency has an articulable concern over the safety of a victim, witness, or other person if the record is revealed. Second, disclosure is not necessary if the criminal investigation is likely to be jeopardized. However, the agency may need court approval for withholding this information.
Is an employer entitled to closed criminal records of a prospective employee?
Under § 610.120, RSMo, a number of employers (including police agencies) are entitled to closed records for employment purposes. This section also states that the defendant can also have access to his or her closed records. Therefore, a prospective employee can allow other prospective employers to access those closed records, if a proper waiver is signed.
Can a criminal defendant access police records related to his pending case under the Sunshine Law?
No. Attorney General Opinion No. 200-94 states that if criminal charges are filed, disclosures of police reports should occur under the applicable Rules of Criminal Procedure promulgated by the Missouri Supreme Court. As a result, the defendant is generally required to seek his disclosures from the prosecuting attorney and not the law enforcement agencies directly.
How detailed must an incident report be in describing the “immediate facts and circumstances” of the crime or incident?
An incident report provides the general public with only the most basic information about each incident to which the law enforcement agency is called to respond. In some cases, it may be sufficient to describe the incident as a “vehicle accident” or “domestic assault,” but in other situations more detail may be appropriate.
What information is available from a 911 call?
The information that is generally available or open regarding a 911 call is the “incident information” – the date, time, specific location, and immediate facts and circumstances of the call. The recording is inaccessible to the public. Section 610.150, RSMo.
Are closed records to be destroyed?
No, as a general rule, closed records are to be retained but made inaccessible to the public. Section 610.120, RSMo.