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Sunshine law supersedes advice of counsel and confidentiality clause

In Strake v. Robinwood West Community Improvement District, No. SC94842 (Mo. Nov. 10, 2015), the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the trial court's determination that a Community Improvement District could not have knowingly or purposely violated the Sunshine Law because it followed the advice of counsel and was subject to "two mutually conflicting obligations." A District resident made a Sunshine request for documents relating to the District's settlement of a personal injury lawsuit. Section 610.021 RSMo. expressly provides that "settlement agreements" are open records unless closed by court order, however, the settlement agreement contained a confidentiality clause. The District's counsel advised that the records were open but that the District should deny the Sunshine request to avoid a breach of the settlement's confidentiality provision. The Court ruled that the District's knowledge of its Sunshine Law obligations was not negated by its contractual obligations. Additionally, the District's decision to withhold the requested documents to avoid potential contractual liability amounted to "purposely" violating the Sunshine Law

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