As if a lack of transparency is aspirational.
St. Louis Comes After Lawyer Who Accused Them of Sunshine Law Violations
The city calls Elad Gross’ lawsuit “a publicity stunt,” seeks $25K in damages
By Ryan Krull on Mon, Nov 28, 2022 at 11:53 am
Elad Gross For Missouri
I sometimes sue the government on behalf of hurt people. The day before Thanksgiving, my government decided to sue me and start a negative media campaign in an Eric-Greitens-esque attempt to discredit my work.
I believe that the government should be accountable to the people it represents. A lot of folks agree, and that’s why Republicans and Democrats passed the Missouri Sunshine Law almost 50 years ago, so we could see what our government is doing with our money and in our name. But now, decades later, we have far too many government officials who think you and I shouldn’t see anything at all.
I represent a man who was temporarily detained in a St. Louis jail. Because the cell locks admittedly don’t work and the jail is unsafe, he was assaulted and severely injured. As part of our investigation, I asked for public records from St. Louis City. Over the course of a year, the City violated the Sunshine Law multiple times and delayed producing public records. I learned that attorneys, reporters, researchers, and other members of the public had similar issues with the City. I offered to help the City comply with the Sunshine Law on multiple occasions, and each time I was ignored.
As a last resort, I filed a Sunshine Law lawsuit against the City and several officials. Because of the number of violations involved, the lawsuit was very long and took considerable time to write. I again offered to resolve the dispute, and again the City ignored that offer.
Instead, the City and several of its officials decided to file an illegal lawsuit against me for daring to hold them accountable. They have asked for maximum monetary damages, including an award of punitive damages, which is not allowed in Missouri without special permission of the judge, permission they never asked for. They claim that once the City violates the Sunshine Law on a request, it can violate it as many times as it would like to without additional liability, a novel argument that I’m sure other lawbreakers would love to use in their cases too. Ironically, the name of the claim the City is using to try to shut me up and deter others from seeking transparency is called “abuse of process.”
The City spends a lot of its lawsuit disparaging me, saying that because I ran for Attorney General more than two years ago I should not be believed. I guess the City doesn’t want people running for office either, especially for an office that is supposed to police Sunshine Law violations. If only it did.
These City officials then shared portions of their work with the media in some weird attempt to discredit me. In their comments to the media, the government officials criticized me for… talking to the media. About folks – including reporters – being prevented from seeing public records. About people being assaulted in their jails! These City officials left out the fact that reporters approached me about the issues they were having, or that we have freedom of speech in this country.
Eric Greitens used to attack me for being a “Democratic operative” when I sued him for hiding records, well before I was a candidate for office. Josh Hawley, Eric Schmitt, and Mike Parson took their turns too. They all lost.
It’s a very sad time in the Show-Me State when some government officials act like they own their offices, like the people don’t matter. It’s a scary time when some officials are willing to use their authority and taxpayer money to silence citizens. In some states, these kinds of strategic lawsuits against public participation filed by the City are strictly prohibited. They should be in Missouri too.
If you’ve had issues with the St. Louis City public records portal online and are willing to tell the court about it, please feel free to reach out. Sounds like we’ll be in court soon
Bet on Elad.