Kansas City Star, Friday 11/22/02

Jackson County commission adopts rules for hearings into complaints

The Kansas City Star

For the first time since it began in 1973, a commission to decide complaints against Jackson County employees will have rules governing its hearings.

On Thursday, the Jackson County Commission on Human Rights and Citizens Complaints adopted rules that it began drafting after its first hearing was requested in 1999, commission director Deborah Tircuit said. That initial hearing led to a judgment against commission members for violating Missouri's open records and meetings laws.

Tircuit said the commission's office operations are governed by operating procedures that were formalized in 1997, and most complaints have been resolved through mediation.

However, in 1999, Kansas City resident Karen Turner and Bob WitbolsFeugen of Independence requested a hearing on a complaint about a sheriff's department investigation into the murder of WitbolsFeugen's daughter. They alleged that a sheriff's deputy endangered Turner's daughter by revealing her name to a witness.

Byron Case was later convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The commission denied the complaint against the deputy, but Turner and WitbolsFeugen filed a lawsuit accusing the commission of illegally closing meetings and records. Circuit Judge Thomas C. Clark in February ruled in their favor, ordering fines totaling $500 for intentional violations against Tircuit, commissioner Michael Hunter and Gregory Gerstner, commission chairman.

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