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Aldermen meet in private to move mall plans ahead

Mike Anthony
Executive Editor

June 12, 2013 - Seldom does a sitting elected official admit to skirting the state's Open Meetings and Records Act to discuss public business with other elected officials, but we believe a Crestwood alderman did that last week in an email sent to Mayor Jeff Schlink and other city officials.

A Board of Aldermen work session set for June 4 had been canceled the previous day, yet four aldermen — Richard Breeding and Darryl Wallach of Ward 1, Mary Stadter of Ward 2 and Dan Tennessen of Ward 4 — met at a Crestwood business to discuss the redevelopment of Crestwood Court.

"Four aldermen arrived ready for the work session tonight at 6 p.m., and as we did not have a quorum, we decided to go over to a local business and discuss how we thought we might move this issue of the redevelopment of the Crestwood Court property forward," Stadter wrote in the June 4 email to Schlink.

In his booklet about the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, better known as the Sunshine Law, Attorney General Chris Koster answers a series of questions about the law, including: "Does the Sunshine Law apply to a meeting of members of a public governmental body where public business is discussed, but a quorum is not present?"

Under the law, a meeting takes place when a majority or quorum of public governmental body gathers to discuss or vote on public business, Koster writes. But he adds, "It also must be remembered that 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. For example, a public governmental body may not purposely meet in groups with less than a quorum to discuss and or decide public business and then ratify those actions in a subsequent public meeting ..."

Given Stadter's June 4 email, that certainly appears to be the case as she specifically denotes the lack of a quorum, but writes the four wanted to "... discuss how we thought we might move this issue of the redevelopment of the Crestwood Court property forward."

In an email to Stadter, Schlink noted the June 4 work session had been canceled. "No meeting was scheduled," he wrote. "The public outcry and perception of a Sunshine Law violation will be a separate matter."

We agree with Schlink. While the four aldermen may not have intended to skirt the Sunshine Law, we believe a clandestine discussion of public business fosters that perception.

Tags: Crestwood News, Opinions Column

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