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State files suit against Lucas, Kansas City on behalf of police board

The state of Missouri filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners against Mayor Quinton Lucas and other city officials over a controversial budgetary decision. 

The suit, filed in the Jackson County Circuit Court, named Lucas, the city council, City Manager Brian Platt, Director of Finance Tammy Queen, and the city itself. The plaintiffs seek a reversal and voiding of Lucas’s recent mandates, the return of budgetary control to the board, and a temporary restraining order against the defendants requiring the return of the funds. 

The controversial move from Lucas earlier this month lowered the Kansas City Police Department’s budget to the minimum of 20 percent of general revenue without input from the board, according to the suit. 

“The board has an existing, clear, and unconditional legal right in that, once the fiscal year 2021-22 budget was duly adopted by the board, that budget became the authorization of expenditures for the purposes set forth therein and no transfer from one character classification of expenditure in the board budget to another character classification was permitted without board approval,” the suit read. 

The plaintiffs pointed to the approval of the department’s budget earlier in May and short notice from Lucas before the announcement was made. According to the suit, the reallocation would cause “irreparable harm” to the board’s management of the budget and necessitate cuts in staffing, purchasing, and operations. 

Lucas responded to the suit in a statement, citing “distortions and distractions” over the ordinances over the past week. He said the city had met on working with the department, and that he was prepared for a legal battle over the decision.

“Kansas City will fight vigorously this effort to keep our hands tied in solving one of our greatest challenges for decades,” Lucas said. “Kansas City will fight to shine light on best practices and community collaboration with our police officers, rather than stay in the dark about where taxpayer money goes, what we’re doing, and how the hell we can once and for all get out of this situation. We have a murder problem and it’s getting worse. I’m committed to solving it, even if it takes us going all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”

The suit was leveled on behalf of four members of the board; Lucas is also part of the board.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

Lucas unveiled his plan to amend the department’s budget to the minimum 20 percent of the city’s general revenue as required under state statute last week. The $42.3 million that had already been allocated is now put into a separate fund — along with an additional $3 million — for the city manager and Board of Police Commissioners to oversee and use for community engagement, intervention, and other public services. 

“We’re just looking to say that if there’s an extra $45 million, we want to make sure that programs that are important to a lot of our public — the community interaction officers, our crisis intervention team, our social worker programs, more 911 dispatchers — aren’t the first things to be on the chopping block,” Lucas said in a prior interview with The Missouri Times. “We want to make sure that those are the sorts of things that continue to be funded for Kansas Citians who need important services and we think that’s core to policing.” 

Lucas’s move quickly saw pushback from Kansas City legislators; state Reps. Chris Brown, Josh Hurlbert, Sean Pouche, and Doug Richey sent a letter to Gov. Mike Parson this week asking him to call an extraordinary session dedicated to addressing what they called a “defunding of the police.” 

This report has been updated with Lucas’s statement. 

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