The Missouri Attorney General’s Office settled a lawsuit against Marshfield this week that alleged the city’s police department created illegal traffic ticket quotas and tried to cover it up.
Both parties agreed to a consent judgment requiring the city to concede that it took actions that “could be construed as having a policy requiring or encouraging employees to issue a certain number of citations for traffic violations,” which would be illegal.
The judgment says the city also took steps to eliminate its suspect policies following the filing of the lawsuit and a change in the city’s elected officials.
Notably, Mayor Robert Williams, who publicly disputed the quota allegations, left office in June.
The judgment also calls for the city to develop “adequate” internal policies and a training program to ensure compliance with the law moving forward.
The training must happen by Oct. 1 with the mayor, board of aldermen and the police chief in attendance.
The city also agreed to have the attorney general’s office review its progress and audit its traffic ticket revenue in a year’s time. If the city fails to fulfill any of the requirements, it could face further legal action.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who helped write the laws his office accused Marshfield of breaking as a state senator, said the judgment “provides strong injunctive relief to ensure that traffic ticket quotas aren’t enforced in the future.”
The judgment came nearly nine months after the attorney general’s office sued, saying they had “credible information” from whistleblowers indicating the city and Police Chief Doug Fannen were “flagrantly violating” state laws against quotas.
It claimed Fannen began encouraging officers to increase citations in 2018 and began posting monthly citation numbers to the department bulletin board.
The state noted that citations increased from 383 in 2016 to 646 in 2017 to 1,386 in 2018 and warnings jumped from zero in 2016 to 241 in 2018.
State attorneys said the increase had nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with raising revenue for the city, pointing to the hiring of a “traffic enforcement officer” in 2019 that the department said it would pay for with fine revenue.
A proposal to hire the officer for $35,321 estimated the position could produce $176,600 per year.
The lawsuit also said that the whistleblower was threatened with retaliation after confronting Fannen over the quota system. The consent judgment does not make any mention of that.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader’s politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at [email protected] You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.
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