Lewis Co. sheriff's suit says 911 takeover was tainted

Lewis County 911

Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish is suing the Lewis County 911 Board and two of its board members.

The 11-count lawsuit filed Oct. 30 in Lewis County accuses the board of violating open meetings laws, meeting in secret with potential contractors, failing to provide notice that it would discuss possible outsourcing of 911 services in its meeting agendas and other Missouri Sunshine Law violations.

The lawsuit details a bidding war that began this summer over who would run the Lewis County 911 Center after the board of directors decided it would look outside the county. Marion County 911 director Mike Hall and Parrish were the lone bidders.

Parrish's lawsuit says that board members met with Hall in illegal closed sessions to discuss the bidding process.

The board eventually accepted Hall's bid.

"...these violations resulted in a shambolic competitive bidding process wherein there was no meaningful opportunity for competition since a representative of the Marion County E-911 center assisted in the production of the bid specifications in an unauthorized closed session," Parrish's lawsuit says. "The resultant bid of the Marion County E-911 Center was the byproduct of collusion between it and the board."

Hall said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit also names board members Terry Faulconer and Stacy Nicholas as co-defendants. Parrish is listed as plaintiff in his capacity as both sheriff and taxpayer of Lewis County.

Parrish is seeking more than $18,000 in fines, plus costs and attorney's fees as part of the lawsuit.

Parrish alleges that the board advertised in its notice of the June 11 meeting that it would enter into a closed session to discuss 911 center employees. The sheriff said the board met in the closed session with Hall and Marion County 911 employee Brandon Wells. Hall told the board that it could provide dedicated 911 services to Lewis County for $180,000 per year.

The board eventually accepted Hall's proposal.

"During the ensuing closed session, the board discussed the logistics of the Marion County E-911 absorbing the emergency services of Lewis County," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also notes that 911 board member Chris Heimer, who works for Marion County 911, was involved in negotiations and discussions about the transfer of control of the 911 center to Marion County 911. Parrish called Heimer's involvement "wholly inappropriate given his employment," according to the lawsuit.

The 27-page lawsuit cites an exhaustive overview how the board carried on the public and private discussions of the possible changing of hands at four meetings held between June 11 and Sept. 10.

Part of the lawsuit discusses Lewis County Jail administrator Randy Eaton, who also serves on the 911 board. In it, the lawsuit says that Eaton's presence at three board meetings wasn't recorded in the official records and that his votes abstaining from entering a closed session weren't recorded in the meeting minutes.

It also says that the board didn't specify how individual members voted in a Sept. 3 on a proposal that would raise the sales tax to fund the 911.

Parrish said he was advised by county Prosecuting Attorney Jules "Jake" DeCoster to avoid speaking with the media about the lawsuit. DeCoster is also the attorney representing Parrish.