KCPD Lawyer Says He Was Fired for Complaining About Abuses of Open Records, Evidence
A statue of a police officer holding a child stands outside of the Kansas City Police Department Headquarters. A statue of a police officer holding a child stands outside of the Kansas City Police Department Headquarters. Star file photo A former lawyer for the Kansas City Police Department sent a letter to several agencies Saturday morning alleging wrongdoing by leaders of the KCPD’s legal department. In the letter, former assistant general counsel Ryan McCarty says he was fired Wednesday after challenging his superiors’ practices of withholding public records and suppressing potentially exculpatory documents in criminal cases during the six months he worked for the department. The document, written on KCPD letterhead, was 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 Mayor Quinton Lucas. It was accompanied by hundreds of pages of what appeared to be police department documents and correspondence which The Star had not yet reviewed Saturday.
In the letter, McCarty says his boss and the KCPD’s top lawyer, General Counsel Holly Dodge “consistently, systematically, and unlawfully” closed records that should be made freely available to the public under Missouri’s open records law. Dodge closes documents that should be open by claiming they are part of an ongoing investigation, McCarty says. “Conspicuously, these records happen to be those that would or could present KCPD in an unflattering light,” he wrote. “That is not transparency, but cloaking the proverbial dagger.” Dodge did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday. Documents meant for prosecutors McCarty also says 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 person’s guilt or impeach the credibility of witnesses — including police officers.
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. McCarty 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. “I truly shudder to think how many criminal cases might have to be retried owing to this wrongheaded approach to Giglio requests,” he wrote. Kansas City defense attorney Daniel Ross said he has been pressing the police department on requests for Brady and Giglio information for 18 months. He noticed that his name appears numerous times in the documents McCarty made public, showing where Ross has requested personnel files and disciplinary records of police officers and detectives who investigated criminal allegations involving his clients. “Full discovery disclosures from the state to the defense are required by Missouri Supreme Court rule in criminal prosecutions,” Ross said. “Receiving this information is crucial to effectively representing a criminal defendant. It is the state prosecutor’s ethical duty to review these KCPD records and materials and provide the appropriate materials to the defense. The legal department for KCPD should not be vetting or censuring this information whatsoever. “Mr. McCarty’s complaint, if true, is very disturbing because it means that the State prosecutors are not receiving the full files and records in order to fulfill their duties of review and disclosure. Such conduct would be improper filtering of information by members of the KCPD,” Ross said. “If proven in particular cases, it could mean review of convictions of past cases, and even dismissal of pending matters.”
Kansas City officials respond Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, said after the email was widely circulated, they quickly responded and offered to meet with McCarty next week to discuss his concerns. Lucas, who is also a member of the police board, told The Star Saturday morning he was not made aware that McCarty had been terminated prior to receiving the letter. “There are questions that very seriously need to be asked in relation to that letter,” Lucas said. “I hope and expect that we’ll have a number of more discussions about what was raised.”
Other police board members said Saturday they had not seen the letter. Board president Mark A. Tolbert and Cathy Dean, in attendance at a public forum Saturday with three candidates for the job of Kansas City Police Chief, said they had not read the letter and could not comment on it. Dean added that she could not comment because the letter was a personnel matter. Board member Dawn Cramer declined to comment, saying she has been ill and has not looked into the allegations. KCPD Capt. Leslie Foreman responded to The Star’s request for comment in an email Saturday, saying that “any allegations made have been or will be reviewed and addressed as appropriate.” Foreman said McCarty worked for the KCPD from June 13 to December 8. She declined to say whether he resigned or had been fired. McCarty Letter by Ian Cummings