A Lee’s Summit woman who sued the City of Raytown for violating the Sunshine Law has nearly doubled her recovery after a judge awarded $41,000 in attorneys’ fees to her for prevailing in an appeal brought by the city.
In a March 9 order, Jackson County Judge S. Margene Burnett awarded Paula Wyrick’s attorneys at The Gorny Law Firm $41,062 in fees for the appeal. That amount is in addition to the $38,550 she’d originally ordered in the case for the attorneys, plus $1,148 in expenses originally ordered and $4,000 in civil penalties levied against the city for Wyrick.
Wyrick is the daughter of a woman who died in December 2016 in a vehicle crash at 67th Street and Ralston Avenue in Raytown.
She sued the city in October 2017 after it denied her requests for city records about the crash intersection. The city cited a Sunshine Law provision that allows for the closure of records related to legal actions and causes of action or litigation involving a public governmental body.
In February 2019, Burnett ordered the city to pay $4,000 in civil penalties to Wyrick and $38,550 in fees to her attorneys.
The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District affirmed the judgment in November and awarded her attorneys’ fees on appeal. The Missouri Supreme Court declined to take up the case.
Wyrick’s attorney, Christopher Dandurand, said in an email the case “was always about our firm’s commitment to openness in government, and never about the attorney fees.”
“However, I hope that the Court’s Order to pay trial and appellate fees will make other public governmental bodies think twice about withholding information from its citizens in the future,” he said. “If my client’s willingness to pursue this case at multiple levels of appeal has that effect, then it was absolutely worth the time and effort.”
Christopher Napolitano of Ensz & Jester in Kansas City represented the city. He did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The case is Wyrick v. Raytown, 1716-CV24321.