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Missouri AG sues Cass County town that laid off police department

Posted at 4:29 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-17 17:29:03-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Monday filed a lawsuit against the city of Garden City, alleging that it violated the state’s Sunshine Law after voting to disband its police department last fall.

In the lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office said that the city “improperly shielded from public view a vote to reduce or disband the city’s police force, an important matter of public concern that is not authorized to be closed under the Sunshine Law,” according to a news release.

“Citizens have a right to know about decisions that their local governments and municipalities make that directly affect them,” Schmitt said in the release. “The Missouri Sunshine Law ensures transparency in government, and as attorney general, it’s my duty to protect and enforce the Sunshine Law.”

In November 2018, the Board of Aldermen voted in a closed session to lay off the police department’s seven officers because of budget cuts. Then, city leaders placed Police Chief Thomas Alber, an 18-year veteran of the department, on indefinite suspension without pay.

Mayor Daniel Cantrell told 41 Action News in November that the layoffs were a tough decision and came as a result of budget cuts.

“Cities have to make tough financial decisions all the time, but voting on major decisions like this shouldn’t be held behind closed doors,” Schmitt said in the release Monday.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office, which responds to emergencies in Garden City, said at the time that deputies would continue to handle 911 calls and patrol the area as normal.