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Judge blocks public records request in police chief case

Mar 19, 2013 -- 9:45am


Southeast Missourian

A judge has issued a restraining order upon the city of Perryville to withhold certain documents and information surrounding the resignation of its police chief, who is on paid leave and has turned in his resignation after an investigation into his conduct. The order, signed by Circuit Judge Ben Lewis, blocks the city from responding to a Sunshine Law request sent by a Southeast Missourian reporter March 14.
The police chief is an elected position in Perryville, a fourth-class city. City Attorney Thomas Ludwig said in an email that the city was ready to comply with the Sunshine Law request "if and when the judge lifted his order." In a separate interview, Ludwig said the documents have been prepared, including the redaction of names and information pertaining to employees of the city. The Sunshine Law states that the "hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body" may be closed, although a vote on a final decision must be made available to the public within 72 hours of the decision. An attorney representing the Missouri Press Association said elected officials are not considered "employees" under the Sunshine Law. She said elected officials are a "public body." Ludwig said he did not see anything in the Sunshine Law that protected elected officials the same way employees are, and that is how the law generally is interpreted by other lawyers. After reviewing the attorney believes the information requested by the newspaper should be an open record.

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