Laut v. City of ArnoldAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs believed that Arnold police department employees had accessed their confidential records in the “Regional Justice Information System” database and filed a complaint. The department completed an internal affairs investigation. Pursuant to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, RSMo 610.010, plaintiffs sought parts of the report “for the purpose of investigating civil claims.” The city’s attorney replied that there had been no criminal investigation, but only an internal affairs investigation, and that the resulting report and other requested documents were closed because they contain personnel information. Plaintiffs again demanded the documents, citing section 610.100.4, which refers to obtaining records "for purposes of investigating a civil claim.” Plaintiffs filed suit, claiming that, whatever the original motivation for the investigation, someone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains … information from any protected computer” commits a crime, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2). On remand, the trial court ordered disclosure of the report with redaction of employees’ timesheets. Plaintiffs moved, under RSMo 610.027, for attorney’s fees and a fine for a purposeful or knowing violation. The court denied the motion. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed. To prove a “knowing” violation, a party must do more than show that the city knew that it was not producing the report; section 610.027.2 requires proof that the public entity knew that its failure to produce the report violated the Sunshine Law. The court upheld a finding that the city’s failure to disclose the investigative internal affairs report was neither knowing nor purposeful.