Kansas City Police Lawyer Accused of Withholding Public Records Leaves Department
Holly Dodge, who was general counsel for the Kansas City Police Department, left that job this week. Holly Dodge, the Kansas City Police Department general counsel who was accused by a former department attorney of wrongly withholding public records, is no longer with the police department. According to KCPD officials, Dodge chose to leave the department and her last day was Wednesday. She joined the department Aug. 25, 2021, and was appointed as the department’s top legal adviser months later.
Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a department spokesman, said it’s not uncommon for the general counsel to change when a new chief takes over. Stacey Graves took over as chief in December. “This is not outside the norm for that position and presumably played a role in this decision for Ms. Dodge,” Becchina said. Dodge said Thursday she was now working at Lauber Municipal Law LLC in Lee’s Summit. “It is a wonderful opportunity to provide legal advice to municipalities throughout the state,” she said.
In December, former assistant general counsel Ryan McCarty laid out a plethora of alleged wrongdoing in an eight-page letter, saying that as the police department’s general counsel Dodge closed records that should be available to the public under Missouri’s open records law. “Hopefully this is the beginning of the institutional change that is greatly needed at KCPD,” said Tom Porto, an attorney representing McCarty, about Dodge’s departure. Days after McCarty’s letter was made public, Mayor Quinton Lucas said he and other police board members agreed to hire a law firm to investigate the allegations made in the letter. The letter contained nearly 400 pages of email correspondence, internal police department documents and legal correspondence. The letter and the accompanying attachments were sent by email to several officials, including the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Board of Police Commissioners, members of the U.S. Department of Justice, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Lucas. The document was written on KCPD letterhead. McCarty said Dodge deliberately hid evidence and closed documents that should be open by claiming they were part of an ongoing investigation. McCarty said he heard top police department leaders propose that all emails be destroyed after 180 days. McCarty said in his December letter that his concerns began shortly after he began at the department. “Over the course of the ensuing six months, the red flags kept coming with seemingly accelerating rapidity,” McCarty wrote. “The more I spoke up, the more I was shut out. The more I expressed concern about abuses, improprieties and illegalities, the more I was blackballed, ostracized and shunned.” McCarty also said Dodge wrongly stepped in to choose which police documents to hand over to prosecutors in response to requests for material in criminal cases that could prove a client’s guilt or cast doubt on the credibility of witnesses, including police officers. McCarty Letter by Ian Cummings McCarty said it’s the prosecutor’s job, not the general counsel of a police department, to decide what evidence is relevant in such requests, which in legal terms is referred to as Brady and Giglio material. He added that a general counsel interfering with Giglio requests poses a conflict of interest, especially if information casts doubt on an officer in the department. But in bringing up his concerns with Dodge, McCarty alleges, he was shut out of that process altogether. Prior to joining the police department, Dodge had worked two and a half years as an assistant Kansas City municipal prosecutor.
John Picerno, a criminal defense attorney whose emails were included in the attachments, told The Star, “Based on all that’s gone on in the last several months. I am not surprised that she is no longer employed by KCPD.” “The office of general counsel for the Kansas City Police Department is the gatekeeper for legal integrity of the Kansas City Police Department,” Picerno said.
Dan Ross, a criminal defense attorney whose emails also were included with the attachments, said, “It is important that the KCPD members, as well as the community, have full faith in whoever holds that position.”
Jenny Atterbury, who previously served as the department’s general counsel, is serving in that role on an interim basis until a permanent general counsel has been appointed.
This story was originally published March 16, 2023, 2:08 PM. Related stories from Kansas City Star Crime KCPD lawyer says he was fired for complaining about abuses of open records, evidence December 10, 2022 3:13 PM News Mayor Lucas wants federal prosecutors to review allegations of former KCPD attorney December 12, 2022 12:33 PM
Glenn E. Rice is an investigative reporter who focuses on law enforcement and the legal system. He has been with The Star since 1988. In 2020 Rice helped investigate discrimination and structural racism that went unchecked for decades inside the Kansas City Fire Department.