Monday, September 14, 2015

City Council action to accept Woolston resignation violated Sunshine Law

The Joplin City Council, which was criticized in the recent state audit for violating the Sunshine Law, apparently did so again Sunday when it reached an agreement that secured Councilman Mike Woolston's resignation and sanctioned a statement in which the council absolved Woolston of any wrongdoing.

The Joplin Globe posted a story a short time ago which revealed that City Attorney Peter Edwards contacted each City Council member Sunday, told them of the agreement and asked them to vote on whether to accept the agreement.

Five council members, Mayor Michael Seibert, Gary Shaw, Morris Glaze, Ryan Stanley, and Miranda Lewis signed off on the agreement, which was written by Woolston's lawyers, with Melodee Colbert Kean, Ben Rosenberg, and Bill Scearce voting no.

Since the City Council cannot conduct business without posting notice 24 hours ahead of time and no business can be conducted without a quorum of council members, it would appear that no legal agreement has been reached.

A similar situation took place in the late 1980s in a decision involving the Jasper High School football team. The team's numbers were down, with less than 20 playing. R-5 Superintendent Bob Arnold conducted a telephone poll asking school board members if the program should be dropped and the decision was announced to football players and their parents.

A Jasper parent, Peggy Gordon, came into the Lamar Democrat office and told me about the decision. A Lamar High School student who worked for me as a reporter, Kari Wegener, tracked down the story, talked with the lawyer for the Missouri Press Association and after our story, the board was forced to hold a public meeting, which filled the cafeteria and revisit the issue. When an actual vote was taken, it was 3-3 (school boards only had six members at that time). The tie vote meant Jasper continued to play football. That Friday night, the Eagles won their first victory of the season defeating Golden City. As a side note, Golden City dropped its football program after that year, while Jasper reached the state playoffs the following year.

The Joplin City Council can hold a meeting by telephone in an emergency situation, but not without posting the meeting and agenda and polls of individual council members are not permitted under the Sunshine Law.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

they were probly just following the example set by the county commission. I mean jeez, surely you don't expect democracy in this part of the country