Missouri Independent honored as ‘Sunshine Hero’ by statewide organization

Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller and Parkville resident Jason Maki were also honored by the Missouri Sunshine Coalition

By: - July 29, 2022 6:35 am
Missouri Capitol

The Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. on May 13, 2022 (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Missouri Sunshine Law next year, a statewide organization dedicated to government transparency has honored The Missouri Independent as a “Sunshine Hero” for its work covering state government since launching in October 2020. 

In addition to The Independent, the Missouri Sunshine Coalition has also chosen Greene County Clerk Shane Schoeller and Parkville resident Jason Maki to be honored. The award winners were announced Friday, with an awards presentation scheduled Sept. 17 during the Missouri Press Association convention. 

“The coalition went in search of individuals and organizations who understand the Sunshine Law is vital to building trust in government by ensuring the public has access to the records and deliberations of public governmental bodies,” said Dennis Ellsworth, executive director of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, a nonprofit group of volunteers committed to the free flow of government information. 

“We are delighted with the example set by each of the award winners.”

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The Independent is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to relentless investigative journalism and daily reporting that sheds light on state government and its impact on the lives of Missourians. 

In its release announcing the award, the Missouri Sunshine Coalition praised The Independent as “an important addition to statehouse coverage.” 

“From its earliest days, the staff has reported on looming threats to the Sunshine Law,” the organization said, “and used the law to assist in shedding light on official actions of government and the influences driving policies.”

The Sunshine Coalition also noted that The Independent’s work is provided free, both to readers and to other news outlets across Missouri. 

“Dozens of community newspapers and broadcast and digital news organizations have republished this content,” the organization said, “greatly contributing to awareness of the Sunshine Law and the many ways in which it contributes to an informed citizenry.”

Schoeller, a former Republican state lawmaker, was elected Greene County Clerk in 2014. He is being honored, the Missouri Sunshine Coalition said, because his office “is highly accessible to the public and news media seeking access to public records, and he has taken the initiative to host Sunshine Law workshops to assist with promoting compliance with the law.”

Maki’s award stems from a civil lawsuit he filed against the city of Parkville alleging at least 59 violations of the Sunshine Law. 

The allegations involved fees for research and review of public records, unreasonable delays for production of records and improper denials of public records requests. The city reached an out-of-court settlement with Maki in July 2021, agreeing to pay $195,000 in what is thought to be the largest such settlement in Missouri history.

Maki, a private citizen who works in the technology industry and is not an attorney, represented himself in the court action.

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