When Ken Midkiff of the Sierra Club learned that the Shannon County Commissioners’ had scarred Big Creek, he immediately filed formal complaints with the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA Region 7, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and God Almighty. Ken gets peeved when elected officials flout the law, deface Mother Nature, and then get all smug about it.
The Corps of Engineers indicates that it plans to act on Midkiff’s request that Shannon County be fined and required to restore the section of Big Creek that it disfigured. Good.
But then the story took an interesting twist: Midkiff (shown at left fishing Tavern Creek) got word from an attorney at the National Park Service that Representative Jo Ann Emerson had been laying down covering fire at the Park Service before the Shannon County Commissioners’ assault on Big Creek–giving the lie to all that “who knew we needed permits?” nonsense they’d been spouting.
Immediately, Ken filed a Sunshine Act request with the Shannon County Commission. Since he knew Emerson had made phone calls to the National Park Service, his request carefully defined “communication” as ” any and all formats – for example: electronic, telephone logs, letters.”
Noting in his request that the law requires them to respond within three working days, Midkiff asked for:
1. Any and all copies of communication* to or from US Representative Joann Emerson during the period January 1, 2004 to present;
2. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the National Park Service, Ozark National Scenic Riverways during the period January 1, 2007 to present;
3. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks during the period January 1, 2007 to present ;
4. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the Missouri Department of Conservation during the period January 1, 2007 to present;
5. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the United States Forest Service during the period January 1, 2007 to present;
6. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the L-A-D Foundation during the period January 1, 2007 to present; and,
7. Any and all copies of communication* to or from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources during the period January 1, 2004 to present.
That was February 4th.
There’s been naught but silence from the Commission.
Once it became obvious that the commissioners intended to smirk at the law–again–Midkiff contacted the Attorney General’s office. That was almost as frustrating as dealing with Shannon County. Every time he called, he was told to leave his name and phone number and someone would get back to him. When some dweeboid gave him the same song and dance on the fifth phone call, Ken said, “Forget it, my next move will be to contact the press.” And he e-mailed me.
That threat did get a little bit of action. It got him a phone call from Jane Gummels (he wasn’t sure of the spelling). She informed him that the Sunshine Division of the AGO has no lawyers. They what? That’s right. NO lawyers.
The subject line of Ken’s e-mail to me about his … dare we call it “communication”?… with the AGO was, “Now they tell me.”
So, why don’t they have any lawyers, he wanted to know. Well, it seems that all the attorneys from that division left with Nixon, and Koster hasn’t replaced any of them. Not one. Not yet. Here’s Ken’s take on it:
This is very frustrating. Many people depend upon the AGO to make sure that our government is open, accessible, and transparent. BUT, the very entity mandated with that responsibility is not doing it. As far as openness is concerned, we may as well be living in a dictatorship.
Jane Whoever also told me (and I already knew this) that they needed to fill 75 vacancies. Wasn’t there a Transition Period in which filling positions was supposed to have occurred? This is Feb. 20, Koster took office on Jan. 12 – apparently enforcing the law is a low priority for him.
Am I frustrated? Damned right.
As of today, Ken has heard from Daryl Hilton, who identifies himself as “Assistant Attorney General.”
[Hilton] stated that he contacted the Shannon County Clerk and she assured him that the records will be provided. HOWEVER, she didn’t say when nor did she give any explanation of why I have been stonewalled to this date. Besides which, I sent the letter to the Commission, not to the County Clerk.
Midkiff’s attempts to get some truth are limping along, and his take on it is that there ain’t no sunshine in Shannon County or the AG’s office.
Photo courtesy of sierrasportsmen’s photos on Flickr