Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Kansas City Museum Advisory Board violates Sunshine Law with electronic vote

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 9:19 AM

The Kansas City Museum is the subject of plenty of drama at City Hall
  • The Kansas City Museum is the subject of plenty of drama at City Hall.

A June 15 vote by the Kansas City Museum Advisory Board regarding a business plan for the Kansas City Museum was wiped out when a city attorney discovered that the vote was conducted through an online survey with no public notice.

Martha Lally, chairwoman of the museum advisory board, told her colleagues at Monday afternoon's board meeting at City Hall that they would have to vote again some other time.

The vote took place July 15 via SurveyMonkey, an online voting application, to approve a business plan for the Kansas City Museum that recommends separating the management of the museum from Union Station and re-hiring ousted director Christopher Leitch. That vote formed the basis for a letter and white paper that Lally submitted to Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

No prior notice was given for the vote.

A majority of the board voted to approve the business plan, but Kansas City Councilman Jim Glover objected to the vote, pointing out that it was likely violating the Missouri Sunshine Law, which generally requires public bodies to conduct their business where the public can observe what they're doing.

"It's not just that it violated the law, which is enough...People voted without a discussion," Glover told his colleagues at the meeting. "I'm saying that's why the vote was wrong."

Other board members characterized the vote as a mistake made in "good faith" and asked that the city attorney's office consider doing some training for the board, made up largely of volunteers, about open meetings laws.

The board had also requested a memo from the city attorney's office asking whether the city provides coverage for board members if they get sued in connection with their activities as board members. That answer is yes, so long as they are acting within their scope as board members.

The Kansas City Museum Advisory Board makes recommendations to the City Council with regards to oversight of the Kansas City Museum, housed largely at Corinthian Hall.

The advisory board is considering separating the museum from a management contract it has had with Union Station since 2007.

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