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Judge finds DNR guilty of ‘purposeful violation’ of Sunshine law


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will have to pay a $5,000 fine to the Cole County School Fund after a judge determined the department did not give public notice when it took members of the Clean Water Commission to tour a hog farm in 2015.

Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ordered the department Thursday to pay the highest fine possible for this violation of the Sunshine Law. The department will also have to pay the $18,000-plus in attorney’s fees racked up by the Friends of Responsible Agriculture, which describes itself as a group of Mid-Missouri citizens that have concerns about large-scale livestock agriculture.

The severity of the sentence came from her determination that DNR did not share the information about their visit with the public specifically to prevent members of Friends of Responsible Agriculture from attending the tour.

The $5,000 fine is classified as a “purposeful violation” of Missouri’s Sunshine law, the most severe distinction of a violation on that law.

The hog farm in question is one that has garnered significant opposition in Howard County as they could decrease property values from smells as well as environmental harms. Concentrated animal feeding operation, better known as CAFOs, are often maligned for their environmental harms as the sheer amount of animal waste can diminish water quality in surrounding areas. However, they are also considered a highly efficient method of growing the vast quantities of meat Americans eat.