March 20, 2017 – Judge Darren Adkins passed down his ruling on Thursday, March 16, denying the plaintiff’s assertion that free admission passes to the Jesse James Farm and Museum mailed out by Eastern Commissioner Luann Ridgeway and Western Commissioner Gene Owen to senior citizen voters violated the Missouri Constitution.
The case brought by Gary Markenson, a Gladstone resident, in April of 2016 asked the court to have the commissioners repay the county for lost admission fees to the Jesse James Farm and Museum.
Adkins, who was appointed to hear the case by the Missouri Supreme Court out of Harrison County issued a four-page ruling that laid out his judgement. Adkins made 15 findings in his ruling which included:
“That in 2013, a mailing program was commenced in which mailings were sent by the Eastern District and Western District Commissioners to registered voters born during 1946-1950 who have voted in at least one general election in either 2010 or 2012.”
“A written opinion was provided by County Counselor, Donald Norris, expressing his legal concerns regarding the targeted mailings with the coupon/gift certificate, and that both
Defendant Commissioners received his written opinion.”
“The mailings were sent to a targeted group of individuals, but said group was sufficiently general to avoid the concerns raised by the County Counselor”
Adkins also that the program did have a public benefit as both revenue and attendance at the Jesse James Farm and Museum increased with the addition of the free passes. The county’s historic sites manager testified at the February 9 bench trial that the increases in revenue came at the same time that the museum raised its price of admission.
Adkins went on to say “The Courts find that Missouri Constitution, Article VI, Section 25, specifically prohibits a County from granting public money or property to any private individual, however, as to Sections 23 and 25 of Article VI, these constitutional prohibitions are not violated simply because incidental benefits may accrue to private interests. Furthermore, determination of what constitutes a public purpose is primarily for the legislative department and it will not be overturned unless found to be arbitrary and unreasonable.”
Read the rest of this story in the Tuesday, March 21 issue of the Standard
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