- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A Jasper County judge said he plans to order the city of Joplin to release part of an investigator’s report that led to the firing of the former city manager.

The Joplin Globe and its parent company, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., had asked for the report’s release after Mark Rohr was fired as city manager on Feb. 4. The city council had authorized the investigation into two city council members but at some point it focused on Rohr, The Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1dK6htQ ).

After the council went into closed session to hear the report, it reconvened in open session and then voted 5-4 to fire Rohr.

Previously, the city released part of the report about the two councilmen but withheld sections concerning Rohr and refused to allow access to some exhibits of the report and testimony from the investigation. The council’s contract with the investigator specified that the report was to be made public. But the city contends that the report on Rohr is a personnel record that is not public record.

Jasper County Judge David Mouton said Monday he would issue a writ ordering public disclosure of the report, along with its exhibits and testimony.

The Globe’s publisher, Mike Beatty, said having the report released is important.

“I think getting the document is not as important to the Globe as it is important for our community,” he said. “Joplin residents deserve to know what is happening in our city government with full disclosure, particularly now during Joplin’s redevelopment.”

Mouton said he was not convinced the records requested by the newspaper would be exempt under the state’s open meetings law.

“The Sunshine Law says itself that the exceptions are to be narrowly construed, and I don’t find that these records fall within any exception,” the judge said.

The Globe’s attorney, Chuck Buchanan, said the judge will set a deadline for disclosure and the city will then decide its response.

“At this time, we don’t know whether the documents will be available immediately or whether there will be a long delay if the city decides to appeal,” he said.

City Attorney Brian Head said he disagreed with the judge’s decision and he will recommend to the council that it appeal.

___

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com