The City of Platte City must
pay plaintiff Harold Coons' legal fees in the
amount of more than $12,000 as part of the settlement
of a Sunshine Law legal action against the city.
Coons, a Platte City resident,
had alleged that the city board of aldermen
failed to give proper public notification and
posting of the agenda for its June 7 special
meeting, where a first reading of annexation
ordinances was held.
A settlement on the lawsuit
was approved by Platte County Circuit Court
Judge Owens Lee Hull on Friday.
As part of the settlement, the
city agreed to remove its annexation questions
from the November election ballot, and will
have to cover any and all costs associated with
The plaintiff's suit is dismissed
with prejudice, meaning he cannot file the suit
"The entire Platte City
area community owes a debt of gratitude to Harold
Coons. He has demonstrated that one individual
can make a difference," Bob Shaw, attorney
for the plaintiff, said Friday after the settlement
had been approved.
Shaw said he is bothered by
what he called "trash talk" from representatives
at city hall.
"I am very disappointed
with all of the trash talk from city officials
we have seen in newspapers and in their news
release," he said, referring to a previous
comment from city administrator Keith Moody,
who a few weeks ago downplayed the pending legal
action by saying: "Anybody can file a lawsuit"
and by mayor Dave Brooks referring to the violation
of the Sunshine Law as a "technical glitch.
Shaw was happy for his client.
"The settlement speaks
for itself," he said.
City officials, speaking through
a prepared news release as they had done last
Tuesday after the aldermen voted to rescind
the annexation ordinances as the lawsuit settlement
was being finalized, once again referred to
the situation as a "technical glitch.
"Out of respect for the
loyal taxpayers in our community, it's best
to settle the lawsuit out of court," Brooks
said. "I know many people in Platte City
are disappointed to see a technical glitch slow
the progress of our developing community.
On Sept. 15, Judge Hull had
approved an expedited schedule in Coons' lawsuit
against the city, a schedule that would have
allowed for a ruling prior to the scheduled
Nov. 7 vote.
Under terms of the settlement,
the city must pay $3,750 to McGinness and Shaw
of Platte City and another $8,572.44 to Shaw's
co-counsel, Murphy, Taylor Siemens and Elliott
PC of St. Joseph.
In the news release, the city's
annexation consultants have reportedly offered
to waive a portion of their fees for work done
on the annexation issue to date and for future
work related to resubmission of another annexation
issue to the voters, should the city choose
to renew its annexation efforts.
The city has previously budgeted
$50,000 in legal fees for annexation legal help.
The city has not yet indicated
if or when it will come back with another annexation
proposal, or perhaps the exact same proposal.
In June, Platte City announced
its intent to annex two large unincorporated
areas near the city's current boundaries. Platte
City requested the right to annex 3,500 acres
south of the river and another 2,900 acres east
of the city.
City officials have said they
see annexation as a necessary move to help balance
future growth and economic conditions.
"Annexation really provides
the city with a consistent style of growth,"
says Brooks. "At the same time, this balance
will help our community to be more resilient
to economic downturns.
The news release says Brooks
and a majority of the aldermen continue to believe
that annexation will provide added benefits
to area property owners.
Annexation opponents have been
pointing to flaws in the city's plan of intent,
including poking holes in what they say are
the city's understated estimated figures of
what it would cost the city to provide services
to the proposed annexation areas. The annexation
of the 6,500 acres would have quadrupled the
geographical size of the current city.
Opponents had quietly expressed
optimism in their chances of getting many Platte
City residents to oppose the effort once they
communicated how much it would cost the residents
of the city to help fund the services needed
to serve the annexed property.
Opponents have also indicated
it would better serve the interests of the city
for officials to be working on a plan to extend
sewer service to potential commercial areas
east of Interstate 29 rather than concentrating
its effort and money on an involuntary annexation