Posted tagged ‘Jean Maneke’

Missouri Sunshine Coalition to hold inaugural meeting

February 11, 2009

Feb. 11, 2009

By Jim Robertson
Columbia Daily Tribune

A new organization for people who want to promote government openness at all levels in Missouri will hold a public reception and program on Thursday, March 12, in Columbia. The event is free.

The Missouri Sunshine Coalition is seeking individual and organization members from all areas of the public. It will hold a 2 p.m. reception and 3 p.m. program at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at MU.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has been invited to speak at the 3 p.m. program. Other speakers will be Charles Davis, director of the National Freedom of Information Center, which is based at the School of Journalism; and Mike Wood, director of governmental relations for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The group’s founders have met three times to elect a board of directors, to approve bylaws and a mission statement, and to plan the March 12 program. On Jan. 15 the group elected Jim Robertson, managing editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, president.

Until now, Missouri was one of the few states in the country that did not have an organization whose mission is to promote government transparency. This group hopes to bring together all individuals and organizations in Missouri who want to minimize secrecy in the operations of local and state government agencies.

Following is the Mission Statement of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition, Inc.
1. Members of the Missouri Sunshine Coalition believe the best form of government is that which operates in a free and open environment, giving its citizens unfettered access to information as to its activities and the use of its public funds.
2. We believe government exists to serve its citizens and access to such information should be simple and at minimal cost.
3. The Missouri Sunshine Coalition exists to support citizens of this State in their efforts to exercise their rights under the Missouri Sunshine Law, which is premised on the foundation that “It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law.”

Serving the Coalition with Robertson are Vice President Jo Sapp, Columbia, League of Women Voters; Secretary Jean Maneke, Kansas City, an attorney who is an expert on the Missouri Sunshine Law; and Treasurer Mike Sherry, Kansas City, Kansas City Business Journal.

Members of the Board of Directors are Jean Buchanan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jack Whitaker, Hannibal Courier-Post; Don Hicks, Jefferson City, Missouri Broadcasters Association; Brenda Jones, St Louis, American Civil Liberties Union of eastern Missouri; and Randy Picht, Kansas City, The Associated Press.

The officers and directors were chosen from among those who attended the organizational meetings of the Coalition.

Membership in the coalition costs $25 for an organization or individual.

For more information on membership or to RSVP for the March 12 event, please contact Kristie Williams, kwilliams@socket.net, 573-449-4167.

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Private adoptions and adoption ads are legal in Missouri.

June 16, 2008

A Missouri publisher asked whether it is appropriate to run classified ads for adoptions. Below is the response from attorney Jean Maneke, Missouri Press Association’s Legal Hotline counselor.

Private adoptions and adoption ads are legal in Missouri.
It is not unusual for a couple to advertise in this way because finding a pregnant woman interested in placing a child for private adoption is often difficult. All private adoptions require court supervision and so nothing happens without a court being involved. And the court strictly supervises the amount of money adoptee parents pay a mother for participating in the process, so there is that guarantee that children are not “bought” and “sold.”
Such ads are not unusual in large metro papers. Like any other ad from someone you do not know, I would make sure the money is there to pay for the ad.
Usually if a willing mother-to-be is located, the couple offers to pay her transportation
to wherever (often California), pays her medical expenses, and is permitted to pay her a small stipend while they wait for the childbirth. No other funds are permitted to be paid for the child.
If you have other questions, don’t hesitate to let me know.
—Jean Maneke, Esq. (jmaneke@manekelaw.com) (816) 753-9000.

Documents reveal Missouri license records fee increase set to pay for computer system

May 27, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008
By DAVID A. LIEB
The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A sharp fee increase for state vehicle and driver’s license records appears to have been set to pay for the cost of a new computer system — a justification not allowed under Missouri’s open-records law.

The Missouri Department of Revenue this month began charging $7 each for license records — up significantly from its previous $1.25 charge. The agency also eliminated a discount to businesses that previously could buy bulk quantities of records for less than a penny each.

Missouri’s open-records law limits fees for computerized public records to the costs of the copies and the staff time needed to retrieve and duplicate them.

But documents provided to The Associated Press suggest the Department of Revenue picked the $7 fee to cover the cost of a new computer database for the records. The equipment and contracted maintenance of the sought-after system is projected to cost nearly $70 million by 2017, according to department records.

“The statute is very specific about what they are allowed to charge for — and equipment is not one of the factors,” said Jean Maneke, a Kansas City lawyer who specializes in public records law.

The AP received about 200 pages of materials from the department in response to a Sunshine Law request for documents justifying how the department arrived at its new rate.

Department spokesman David Griffith cited a lawsuit by four businesses that regularly buy the records to track vehicle histories and traffic violations and in turn sell that information to used car dealers, consumers, insurance companies and other entities.

That lawsuit contends the new $7 fee violates Missouri’s Sunshine Law, and a hearing on a preliminary injunction request is set for May 29. Attorneys involved in that lawsuit also received the documents provided to the AP.

Those documents include numerous calculations about how much money would be generated for the department under various fee-increase options.

For example, an undated spreadsheet prepared by the fiscal manager for the department’s Customer Services Division projects that a fee of $7.09 per record would cover the one-time cost and annual maintenance for the new system.

Another document from the same manager, dated Dec. 6, shows several options crossed out with a rectangle drawn around a computer configuration option that would result in a fee of $6.90 to cover one-time costs and annual maintenance.

Department Director Omar Davis has previously acknowledged the fee increase would pay for the equipment. When outraged legislators voted last week to limit the agency’s bulk-purchase fee to 0.5 cents per record, Davis said the department probably would have to cancel its contract for the new system.

One of the attorneys suing the department said the documents show the fee increase was not set according to the Sunshine Law.

“My impression is that it does not justify the drastic increase in fees, that should be simply the cost of an employee getting an electronic copy generated and put on some type of a CD or other electronic media form, and that’s it,” said attorney Alex Bartlett, who represents Experian Information Solutions Inc.

Fliers prepared by the department list the basic fee as $7, plus a $2 processing fee when purchasing the records from the state’s contractor-run license offices.

The flier states: “The Department of Revenue has determined this price more accurately reflects its costs and is comparable to fees charged by other states for driver records.”

But a department document dated Dec. 21, 2006, indicates that an employee can process a record request in 3.5 minutes, which when divided by the employee’s hourly wage, results in a record retrieval cost of 67 cents. The department also can charge 10 cents per page for a copy of the records, according to the Sunshine Law.

The 2006 document also adds numerous other things into the cost of each record sale, including prorated portions of the salaries for various department supervisors, attorneys, fiscal staff and human resources employees.

When factoring in those other personnel, the cost for each driver’s license record sale would equal $7.17 and $11.56 for each motor vehicle record sale, the document states. When adding prorated expenses for staff travel, training and supplies, such as license plates, the cost for each driver’s license record sale would be $13.40, and $21.69 for each motor vehicle record sale, the document states.

Maneke, who reviewed the document at AP’s request, said such costs cannot be passed on to the public seeking copies of the records.

“That is ridiculous to be building that into this, it is illegal under state law,” said Maneke, later adding: “This kind of document is the kind of thing that a lawyer bringing a Sunshine Law suit would find very damning in terms of evidence against the Department of Revenue.”

Griffith defended the department’s cost estimates.

“I think the information that is in there is accurate,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s been padded.”

Sunshine, shield on legislative agenda

December 13, 2007

Revenue Dept. rules newspapers should not have to pay taxes on delivery costs 

By MPA President David Bradley
St. Joseph News-Press
My term as president of Missouri Press Association has passed by in a flash. Yes, the official duties took a little time, but the enjoyment of carrying them out far outweighed the work.
The MPA staff has done a great job of keeping me on task. The group, particularly event director Kristie Williams, made the annual MPA Convention in St. Louis the highlight of my year. Next year’s convention in Columbia will be huge joining with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Missouri School of Journalism.
Jack Whitaker of Hannibal will fill the presidential role in January. Jack has been on the
MPA Board for several years and helped push our state’s newspaper industry into the digital age. He has also built a financially viable community website and, at the same time, increased his print circulation. That’s impressive.
In November, University of Missouri Interim President Gordon Lamb hosted an MPA luncheon at the president’s residence on the Columbia campus. Dr. Lamb presented a $38 million proposal to increase the number of health care professionals for Missouri. He said the state is facing a growing shortage of pharmacists, nurses, dentists and doctors in rural and low-income urban areas.
Dr. Lamb said all Missouri colleges and universities are working together to come up with a funding formula for the schools. He is going on a statewide “University Unity
Tour” with other higher education institutions to make their case for funding from the legislature.
The MPA is also gearing up for some important legislative initiatives in 2008. With the help of MPA counselor Jean Maneke, we will try to button up some loopholes in
Missouri’s Sunshine Law. We also will try again to push through a Free Flow of Information bill, known as a shield law, to protect reporters and editors (and their sources) who are investigating misdeeds.
Also in Jefferson City, the Missouri Department of Revenue issued a private letter ruling that could provide many Missouri newspapers relief on their sales tax burden. The letter,
issued to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ruled that the newspaper shouldn’t have to pay sales tax on its delivery costs to newspaper customers.
MPA played an important role in facilitating face-to-face meetings between the department and publishers from the Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star.
Before you stop paying this tax, you will need a departmental ruling addressed to your own newspaper. But at least the template has been created for your paper to qualify for such an exemption.
On another matter, your MPA Board reluctantly approved a 25 percent dues increase
for 2008 to fund a statewide newspaper website for public notices and other legal advertising. We hope to reassure legislators that Missouri newspapers will make sure this type of advertising adequately reaches the public in print and online. This is the
first dues increase since 2001.
We were surprised to hear that Gary and Helen Sosniecki have sold The Vandalia Leader and are taking time off for a well-deserved rest. They have been superb MPA board members, and Gary headed the association in 2004. Gary assures me that they will be back after the first of the year looking for newspaper work. “And if we can’t find anything, we may be buying a paper,” he hinted.
Finally, we were glad to see one positive article about our industry in the Oct. 29 issue of Advertising Age headlined “Stop writing those obituaries for the newspaper industry.” Marc Brownstein of the Brownstein Group in Philadelphia said that “innovation and a keen sense of competition will win the day for newspapers.”
MPA knows that is top priority, too. So keep telling us how we can help.