Missouri AG sues Cass County town for disbanding police force ‘behind closed doors’

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office on Monday said it was suing a Cass County city for allegedly violating the state’s Sunshine Law when it voted to disband most of its police department “behind closed doors.”

Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his office sued Garden City in Cass County Circuit Court for disbanding its police force in November 2018 during a vote not open to the public.

“Garden City citizens were deprived of the opportunity to voice their views about the matter until after the City’s Board of Aldermen voted to reduce or disband the police department behind closed doors,” Schmitt said. “By then, it was too late.”

The move laid off the seven police officers in Garden City, a city of about 1,600 residents more than 45 miles southeast of downtown Kansas City.

In a statement on Twitter at the time, Police Chief Thomas Alber, who was later suspended indefinitely without pay, said he was given no explanation for why the town was getting rid of his officers. He sued the city in January, court records show.

Schmitt’s lawsuit was not his first over a city voting to disband its police department in a closed session.

In April, his office filed a similar lawsuit against the City of Wood Heights, which has a population of about 700, in Ray County Circuit Court. That petition asked the court to void the vote and award monetary penalties if the city purposefully violated the law.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.