Local Government

Paul Martin, Esquire

Contents of internal investigation report determines whether the report was an exempt disciplinary record or a disclosable criminal investigative report under the Sunshine Law. Laut v. City of Arnold, No. 99424 (Mo. App. E.D., December 3, 2013), Gaertner, J.

Plaintiffs requested that the city produce records related to an internal police investigation. The city denied any criminal investigation and responded that the records were closed pursuant to the personnel disciplinary exception of the Sunshine Law, § 610.021.3, RSMo. Plaintiffs sued, and the city moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion without examining any documents responsive to the plaintiff’s request. Plaintiffs appealed.

Held: Reversed.
The Eastern District noted that the § 610.021.3 exemption applied only if disclosure of the records was not otherwise required by law. Two of the records sought by the plaintiffs were public records under the Sunshine Law and did not appear to trigger the personnel disciplinary exemption. The trial court was directed to examine those documents to determine whether they should have been produced.

The remaining two records requests fell squarely within the exemption, as they sought the reasons for disciplinary action, but they also alleged criminal conduct by the police department employees. Plaintiffs argued that these requests were for police investigative reports that were required to be disclosed under § 610.100(5). The court held that the characterization of the records as either a disciplinary matter exempt under § 610.021.3 or a criminal investigation disclosable under § 610.100(5) required an examination of the responsive records. Since that had not occurred, there was a dispute of material fact, and summary judgment was improper.