National Freedom of Information Coalition
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Missouri AG: city council’s last-minute budget cut did not violate Sunshine Law

CLAYTON  — The St. Louis County Council did not violate state’s open-meetings law in December by filing last-minute legislation that cut $31 million from the county budget, the Missouri attorney general’s office said.

The ruling came in response to a complaint from local government watchdog Tom Sullivan, of University City, who filed the complaint because the Missouri Sunshine Law requires a public body to post a meeting agenda 24 hours before a meeting. The council’s agenda posted for the Dec. 12 meeting did not point to any effort to slash county spending, and Sullivan said he felt the last minute changes shut out the public from providing any input.

But assistant attorney general Jason K. Lewis wrote that “the Sunshine Law does not prohibit governmental bodies from adding items to an already-posted agenda, so long as the public is informed about the new items with appropriate advance notice and the additions were not made with the intent to circumvent the Sunshine Law.”

The issue arose after Council Chairman Sam Page filed a series of bills on Dec. 12 two hours before the council meeting. The measure advanced 6-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from council member Pat Dolan, who noted that he had been left out of whatever discussions happened before the meeting that led to the surprise changes. Read more…