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Local Kansas City Police Board Denies Lawyer’s Allegations that KCPD Hid Public Records

Glenn E. Rice, Luke Nozicka

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners on Monday said allegations made by a former police department lawyer that the department purposely hid evidence in criminal cases and withheld public records were “not accurate.” The statement comes months after KCPD’s former assistant general counsel Ryan McCarty laid out a plethora of alleged wrongdoing in a December letter in which he claimed the department’s general counsel closed records that should be available to the public under Missouri’s open records law.

“It is now clear that the former employee’s allegations are not accurate,” the police board, which oversees KCPD, said in its statement. “The allegations, which were written on falsified letterhead, are based on incomplete facts and misconstrue the KCPD’s practices.” The board did not name McCarty in its statement or provide specific evidence of why the information was inaccurate.

But the board’s five members said the former employee “widely disseminated privileged and sensitive information in violation of the person’s ongoing ethical and other duties.” Tom Porto, an attorney for McCarty, said he believes the board’s statement is a further attempt to “retaliate” against McCarty and “unduly influence” an investigation by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel into his client’s conduct. That office is the Missouri Supreme Court’s agency that investigates complaints about attorneys. Porto said he believed that investigation, which will seek to determine if McCarty’s actions were ethical under the professional rules for Missouri lawyers, was opened at the urging of the police board. Porto described his client as a “whistleblower” against a public, governmental entity and said they have started the process of pursuing an employment-related lawsuit against KCPD.

“My client and I choose to litigate our employment lawsuit in a court of law — not the press, as is commonly done,” Porto said in a statement. “We also choose to let the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel do its job to determine what is and is not ethical behavior without outside influence — political or otherwise.”

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. The letter, written on what looked like KCPD letterhead, contained nearly 400 pages of email correspondence, internal KCPD documents and legal correspondence. The letter was sent by email to several officials and agencies, including the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, members of the U.S. Department of Justice, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Lucas. McCarty alleged Holly Dodge, KCPD’s general counsel who left the department earlier this year, hid evidence and closed documents that should be open by claiming they were part of an ongoing investigation. McCarty also said he heard top KCPD leaders propose that all emails be destroyed after 180 days.

McCarty said his concerns began shortly after he started at the department. “Over the course of the ensuing six months, the red flags kept coming with seemingly accelerating rapidity,” he 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 claimed Dodge wrongly stepped in to choose which KCPD records to hand over to prosecutors in response to requests for material in criminal cases that could cast doubt on the credibility of witnesses, including officers. He called it the prosecutor’s job to decide what evidence is relevant in such requests, which are referred to in legal terms as Brady and Giglio material. Defense attorneys called McCarty’s claims “very disturbing” because, if true, it meant prosecutors were not receiving full investigative files. Separately, Lucas said if the allegations were true, hundreds of criminal cases could be reopened.

On Monday, the police board said KCPD’s practices “have and continue” to meet its obligation to assist prosecutors in identifying Brady and Giglio information. The board called it “an unusual step” for it to issue a statement about the allegations, but said it was doing so to “provide transparency to stakeholders, including the judiciary and others who are involved with the criminal justice system.”

John Picerno, a criminal defense attorney who was among the lawyers whose names appeared on documents that McCarty attached to his letter, said he hopes McCarty’s allegations are not true but he remained skeptical. “A police department that routinely fails to submit probable cause statements of officer involved incidents to the prosecutor’s office and fails to discipline officers for wrongdoing, in a timely manner, if at all, does not inspire confidence in their internal processes,” Picerno said.

Michael Mansur, a spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, said Monday that their office has met with McCarty’s attorneys but have not communicated with the police board. “We are continuing to monitor the situation and look for any information from the police board,” Mansur said. Dodge left the police department in March and told The Star that she was now working at Lauber Municipal Law LLC in Lee’s Summit. She had joined the department in August 2021, and was appointed as KCPD’s top legal adviser months later. At that time, KCPD spokesperson Sgt. Jacob Becchina said it’s not uncommon for the general counsel to change when a new police chief takes over.

Stacey Graves took over as police chief in December. Since then, Jenny Atterbury, who previously served as the department’s general counsel, has served in that role on an interim basis until a permanent general counsel is named.

Read more at: https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article274923831.html#storylink=cpy