Parkville pays Ferguson in criminal investigation
City of Parkville officials have so far spent more than $7,000 to defend their actions in a criminal investigation currently being conducted by local law enforcement.
City Clerk Melissa McChesney responded to a request from The Landmark’s Sunshine, asking for total legal fees in connection with a criminal investigation launched by the Platte County Sheriff’s Department earlier this year. McChesney responded that the city has paid attorney Mark M. Ferguson’s firm $7,143.80 so far.
The investigation appears to have been sparked, at least in part, by the actions of some city officials in a civil lawsuit alleging that the city unlawfully withheld and charged allegedly exorbitant fees for certain documents requested by resident Jason Maki. of the Parkville area, under the Sunshine Act, a state law designed to foster open government.
Mayor Nan Johnston allegedly destroyed an email account the day after Platte County Judge James Van Amburg ordered the mayor and other city officials to produce subpoenas. If verified, destroying public records would violate state law.
The criminal investigation is just one of many investigating the actions of Parkville city officials. The Parkville Ethics Commission is investigating whether to ask Mayor Nan Johnston to step down as mayor based on alleged missteps that a resident says violate the city’s official code of conduct for public officials . Elaine Kellerman’s formal complaint against the mayor calls for his removal. Kellerman’s complaint launched the investigation by the city’s ethics commission.
Additionally, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office has launched a new investigation into the city’s activities. That office earlier launched a Sunshine Law investigation, but dropped the investigation after Parkville-area resident Jason Maki filed a civil suit against the city. Maki, who is not an attorney, represented himself in the lawsuit and was awarded $195,000, which would be the highest Sunshine settlement in Missouri history.
Earlier this year, the Platte County Sheriff’s Department obtained an investigative subpoena from the city of Parkville, ordering the city to produce documents by a specified date. City officials attempted legal action to deny the subpoena, but the request was denied by the courts.
Several weeks ago, The Landmark reported that the sheriff’s department had received at least some of the documents it requested.
The board of aldermen then engaged the legal services of Mark Ferguson, known as a Kansas City area criminal defense attorney. Legal experts told The Landmark that hiring a criminal defense attorney is noteworthy because potential criminal charges would be filed against city officials as individuals, the charges would not be against the city itself. -same. The action could be seen as taxpayers paying for legal advice and defense of individuals at City Hall.
The Ethics Commission held a meeting to reorganize, as the group meets only on request and had not met for several years. Two of the five members have resigned and the college of aldermen is in the process of finding members to replace those who resigned.
Last week, the council of aldermen approved the hiring of Joe Vanover to advise members of the ethics commission in their investigation into the mayor’s ethical status. Vanover is a Platte County attorney who is also a former assistant district attorney who is now a county commissioner.