Neosho city clerk Nora Houdyshell received papers late last week notifying her of a lawsuit naming her and the city of Neosho, alleging violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
The suit was filed in the 40th Circuit Court in Newton County by Bruce Copeland, the attorney who represented Steve Hart and David Ruth, two city councilmen who were the subjects of an ethics investigation that is no longer active.
At the end of Tuesday’s Neosho City Council meeting, Houdyshell issued a statement regarding that suit to the council, city administration and Neosho citizens:
“I believe that recent press coverage and lawsuit concerning my response to an open records request warrants a response to the council.
“I take pride in doing my job correctly and in upholding the transparency of the city that the council worked hard to establish.
“All requests from Mr. Copeland were timely responded to. Upon receiving Mr. Copeland’s request of April 21, (copy attached) I consulted with city attorney Mr. Hays for advice on how to respond. He advised me that the requested information was protected by attorney client privilege. Based upon this advice, I sent Mr. Copeland the attached letter dated April 24, 2014. When a request for records is made and I am unsure of how to respond, I defer to the city attorney. In this case, I even contacted the Missouri Municipal League and stated the issue. They advised me to confer with the city attorney, as he is the legal counsel for the city. As a clerk, I do not have the expertise or experience to question the attorney’s advise in legal matters. I ask the council to provide me with experienced legal counsel to defend the current lawsuit. I shall continue to do my job with the utmost integrity and to the best of my ability.”
The April 21, 2014 Sunshine Law request received from Copeland seeks:
“All opinions of any attorney at the law firm of Cunningham, Vogel & Rost, P.C., no matter how documented, about the TDD appeal (Southern District Court of Appeals No. SD32524) including, but not limited to, opinions of the probability of success of such appeal.”
The St. Louis law firm had represented the city in its appeal against the Neosho Transportation Development District.