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Columbia Daily Tribune

Columbia transparency groups concerned by 'barrier of silence' from city leadership

By Charles Dunlap, Columbia Daily Tribune,


Three local advocacy groups want change to happen in Columbia City Hall.

Hold CoMo Accountable, Race Matters, Friends and CoMo For Progress came together Monday calling on city leadership through the council, mayor and city manager to dismiss City Attorney Nancy Thompson. The groups also request the city manager's office receive a performance audit.

The major concern from the groups was their assertion council was not informed by Thompson that the city was facing a federal civil rights lawsuit from a Columbia family regarding actions by the Columbia Police Department in relation to a child sexual assault investigation. They also allege that advice from Thompson errs too often toward staying silent.

Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe responded Monday to the assertion following the three groups' news conference.

The Columbia City Council was first informed of the lawsuit in early October 2020, she wrote. The council at this time was comprised of Mayor Brian Treece and council members Pat Fowler, Mike Trapp, Karl Skala, Ian Thomas, Matt Pitzer and Betsy Peters.

A separate request for response made to the Columbia city manager's office earlier in the day Monday regarding letters it and the city council received was not returned by time of publication.

The three groups cited the city's charter, noting it is the Columbia City Council that has oversight over the city manager and is well within reason to request information about actions of city departments, including police, while still not directing day-to-day city operations, which are under the auspices of the city manager.

"(Thompson) is the person the council turns to for legal interpretations," said Anthonty Willroth, Columbia business owner and leader with Hold CoMo Accountable, adding this also includes transparency concerns. "What council members can and cannot say to constituents."

The alleged preference toward silence puts city council members in a bind, he said.

"That has created the friction and dysfunction we see weekly at city council meetings," Willroth said.

Race Matters, Friends takes issue with advice given by Thompson on SB 26, which created the police officer's bill of rights, as well as keeping the records closed in relation to proposals seeking American Rescue Plan Act funds from the city, said Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.

"Her interpretation is that the city can maintain this barrier of silence for as long as possible," she said, adding Missouri Sunshine Law is a bare minimum open records law. "There is nothing that prevents her from doing more, except a political will not to."

The groups say they continue to see a goal post they have to cross to get information, but the rules keep changing and move that goal post. The groups also wants a fuller accounting of the Quillan Jacobs investigation.

"We are looking for transparency here. The insinuation is not that Columbia Police have something to hide. It is if they have nothing to hide, they should walk us through this process willingly," Willroth said.

Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.

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