Lewis County sheriff files suit against county's 911 board

Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish (H-W File Photo)
Posted: Nov. 14, 2013 6:29 pm Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 9:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

MONTICELLO, Mo. -- Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish has filed a civil lawsuit against the county's 911 board and two of its members, and is seeking a court injunction to void an agreement with Marion County to handle all emergency calls.

In a petition filed Oct. 30 with the Lewis County circuit clerk's office, Parrish claims the "bid of the Marion County E-911 Center was the by-product of collusion between it and the (Lewis County 911) board," in violation of state law.

Marion County is scheduled to begin processing all of Lewis County's emergency calls Jan. 1. Lewis County 911 has agreed to pay Marion County 90 percent of its sales tax revenue earmarked for 911 over the life of the three-year contract.

"An overwhelming majority of people believe that this is not a good decision for Lewis Countians," Parrish said Thursday. "We believe the process has been flawed. I think that while we firmly believe public opinion is in favor of keeping the service here, we believe reasonable people can disagree.

"We think a judge or court should have a look at this and see whom they agree or disagree with."

One Lewis County 911 Board member believes the panel acted appropriately.

"We did everything according to letter of the law," Randy Routt said. "(Parrish is) on an ego trip. That's all I'm gonna say without speaking with an attorney."

Lewis County voters earlier this month soundly defeated a three-eighths-cent sales tax increase proposal for 911 services. Lewis County had been seeking additional 911 money because annual revenues had averaged $295,617 and expenses $301,268 during the last eight years.

Lewis County 911 requires about $21,000 a month to operate.

According to court documents, the Lewis County 911 Board began discussions with Marion County 911 Executive Director Michael Hall during its June 11 meeting. Parrish's petition claims the board illegally spoke with Hall and Branson Wells, also with Marion County 911, during closed session.

Hall told Lewis County 911 Board members that Marion County could take over Lewis County's services for approximately $180,000 per year, in addition to other costs associated with the consolidation of services.

In his petition, Parrish said the board failed to report the vote of board member Randy Eaton during meetings held June 11, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 3 and Sept. 10. Eaton is employed by the Lewis County Sheriff's Department. Parrish also claims the board violated the state's Sunshine Law by not listing who voted for and against measures at the Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 board meetings.

On July 16, the Lewis County 911 Board posted a request for bids to provide dispatch services for the county. The Lewis County Sheriff's Department and the Marion County 911 Center were the only two to submit a bid.

The Lewis County 911 Board met with Hall in closed session Aug. 27. Parrish said he was called by the board's interim director, Julie White, during that meeting to let him know that the meeting was being held. Parrish said he would only speak with the board during an open session, a meeting which he said never took place.

Parrish's petition claims the Lewis County 911 Board violated state law by meeting in closed session with Marion County 911 representatives on Aug. 27, and that board member Chris Heimer, an employee of Marion County 911, should have recused himself from discussions.

Parrish's petition states "the 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."

"Additionally, the winning bid of the assumption of emergency services for the Lewis County E-911 Center was the Marion County E-911 Center, the very same institution represented by Mike Hall and Branson Wells, and the employer of Chris Heimer."

Parrish on Thursday said he believes the bidding process was handled incorrectly.

"We think we have an argument and some members of 911 board believe what they've done is correct," he said. "We want it reviewed by a court."

Hall, citing the pending litigation, declined to comment Thursday.

Lewis County 911 Board members Terry Faulconer and Stacy Nicholas also were named as co-defendants in the suit. Parrish's petition claims both violated state law by moving to closed session June 11 to discuss the bidding process.

Officials with the Canton Police Department and the LaGrange Police Department said at the June 11 board meeting that they preferred that the 911 services remain in the county.

Summons have been issued to the Lewis County 911 center, Faulconer and Nicholas. A hearing date is yet to be set.