Missouri Office of Attorney General

02/25/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/25/2024 17:59

Attorney General Bailey Orders School District to Cease and Desist Intimidation Tactics Against Whistleblowers

Attorney General Bailey Orders School District to Cease and Desist Intimidation Tactics Against Whistleblowers

Home9Press Release9Attorney General Bailey Orders School District to Cease and Desist Intimidation Tactics Against Whistleblowers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Today, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey directed a letter to Wentzville School District, ordering them to cease and desist any and all attempts to intimidate, investigate, or discipline duly elected school board members for serving as whistleblowers to unlawful conduct.

In his letter, Attorney General Bailey wrote, "On September 26, 2023, I filed a lawsuit to stop the egregious behavior of the Wentzville Board of Education, for 'knowingly exclud[ing] parents from policy discussions about bathroom and locker room access for transgender students.' Pet. at ¶ 5, Case No. 2311-CC00986. In that suit we drew a line in the sand, stating unequivocally that 'Missourians do not co-parent with the government.' Id. at ¶ 1.

"Yet even as this lawsuit is pending before a Missouri state court, I have received credible information that the Wentzville School Board and its administration are presently taking intimidating and retaliatory action against three whistleblower Board members - the very same citizens who were brave enough to report the initial violations of the Open Meetings laws that led to my first lawsuit. I understand that the Wentzville School Board initiated an investigation into the three whistleblowers and, for the past several months, the District or the rest of the Board has been taking steps to silence them."

He continued, "Make no mistake, witness tampering and intimidation is illegal. Any attempt to silence a witness-to prevent or dissuade them from making a complaint or report- violates the law. This includes initiating a pretextual investigation with little to no evidence to punish speech made pursuant to their role as Board members and their providing of information to my Office as witnesses, and threatening further adverse action against them. Missouri law explicitly protects witnesses and prohibits threatening or purposefully dissuading any person from reporting a complaint or testifying in a case. § 575.270, RSMo.

"I believe that the Board's and the District's ruthless and targeted intimidation campaign is retaliatory in nature. It is repugnant to the rule of law, the cherished principle of citizen engagement in local government, and parents' rights to participate in the education of their own children. It must cease immediately."

Attorney General Bailey concluded, "My office is also in possession of information indicating that as early as tonight's scheduled Board meeting, there are plans to discipline and potentially remove from office the three duly elected whistleblower members of the board for certain votes they made in the course of their duties, political speech in which they engaged while in office, or providing information to my Office. If true, I caution you to tread carefully. Weaponizing board policies and procedures in order to discipline or oust members with whom you disagree politically is not only anathema to our cherished democratic process, it likely runs afoul of Missouri's constitution and well established state and federal case law.

"As the chief legal officer for the State of Missouri, I will protect the rights of all Missourians, including the right of elected school board members to expose government officials who are abusing their authority in an attempt to hide government business from public view. I am prepared to exercise my office's full authority under the law to ensure that Missourians who blow the whistle on corruption are protected, and wrongdoers are held accountable."

The full letter can be viewed here.