pen, pad and calculator

The City of Salem sent more documents to The Salem News Thursday in response to a Sunshine Law request made by the newspaper Oct. 27, 2020.

Those documents will be evaluated to see if they satisfy the request, according to publisher Donald Dodd. There are 967 pages to the new document, some of which had not previously been sent. They were emailed to The Salem News by acting city clerk Tammy Koller.

The Salem News in its October request asked the city for, among other things, “the City of Salem’s monthly financial statements for all of 2019 through September 2020. Each statement should include a balance sheet and monthly totals for income, expenses and debt.”

After waiting for the request for over three months, The Salem News on Feb. 11 filed a Sunshine Law complaint with the AG’s office.

An investigation by the Missouri Attorney General’s office is underway following the Sunshine Law complaint filed by The Salem News against the city of Salem, according to an email March 1 from Casey Lawrence, Director of Sunshine Law Compliance and Records Management with the AG’s office.

The newspaper on March 20 issued a second Sunshine Law request from the city, asking for the same documents through February 2021, since the city had not responded to the original request for five months and more timely financial information is needed to see the impact utility billing issues have had on the city.

Knowingly violating the Sunshine Law can result in civil fines up to $1,000, and purposeful violations result in civil fines up to $5,000, plus attorneys' fees, according to the attorney general’s office.

In previous stories, The Salem News reported the Sunshine Law request was made Oct. 27, 2020, in order to shed light on the financial state of the city after a now more than year-long issue with utility billing. Billing is still running months behind, and some customers say they have not received bills or received incorrect bills.

Also requested in the Sunshine Law request were:

• total dollar amount of electric, water, sewer and garbage (all listed separately and totaled by month) billed for the months of November-December of 2019 and January-September of 2020;

• total dollar amount of electric, water, sewer and garbage (all listed separately and totaled by month) collected for the months of November-December of 2019 and January-September of 2020.

Former city clerk Mary Happel provided some of those utility billing figures Jan. 5, and after a review of those records by a lawyer and CPA for The Salem News, the newspaper on Jan. 11 requested clarification from Happel.

Clarification of those records was included in the Thursday response from Koller.