Mayor breaks Public Records Law to Keep SE Foster Shelter Records Secret

The Mayor and City Attorney are playing games with public records law. Here’s another example.

Public records custodians must tell requesters if they possess the records sought.  When they deny a public records request, they must tell citizens how to appeal. There are three places to appeal: (1) the Attorney General, for state agencies; (2) the District Attorney, for local government, and (3) the Circuit Court, for elected officials.

Tyler Bechtel requested records on the proposed 10-year, $2 million-dollar lease of a SE Foster grocery store for use as a mass-dwelling for people, including those afflicted with heroin, meth and alcohol addiction. “The City” asserted statutory exceptions to withhold secret documents. Then, Tyler was directed to the District Attorney for appeal.

Tyler filed his appeal to the District Attorney.

“Gotcha!”

The City Attorney claimed Tyler appealed to the wrong place. He should have filed suit in court because the secret communique is from or to Mayor Wheeler. The DA peeked at the documents and had to agree, telling Tyler he had to appeal to court.

Tyler could not have known what the records were because Mayor Wheeler also violated his legal duty to separate protected from unprotected documents. To date, we still have not seen ANY portion of the document(s): no letterhead, no signature line, nothing. Even the FBI will provide mostly blacked-out documents. Not Mayor Wheeler.

For Mayor Wheeler, mission accomplished. He kept secret his documents until after the county approved the lease. City Attorney J. Johnston told Tyler the document was “detrimental” to the shelter project.

Tyler had no attorney. Who can afford attorneys? He did this all on his own. He filed his own lawsuit.

I signed on to help.

Monday, Judge Bushong granted my request for an expedited hearing. I filed this legal memorandum  and 100+ pages of exhibits. Look at Exhibit 7 and Exhibits 8-10 to see Mayor Wheeler’s delay-misdirection-move to deprive Mr. Bechtel his legal rights.

Judge Souede is scheduled to hear argument on April 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Jeff Merrick, Attorney