Judge orders transcript of Howard County coroner's inquest be released to the public

The inquest investigated death of Kenneth Suttner

Judge orders transcript of Howard...

After almost a year, a costly legal battle between Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler and the Glasgow School District could come to a close.

The district sued the coroner last March after he refused to release a copy of the transcript of his inquest into the suicide death of Kenneth Suttner.

The inquest delved into bullying at Glasgow schools and the workplace of Suttner, which a jury said led to his suicide.

ABC 17 News last reported in January that Flaspohler had spent $2,784. 71 in taxpayer money on the lawsuit.

County Clerk Kathryne Harper said Wednesday that figure has more than quadrupled since then because he exceeded his budget for 2017 and had to roll over some costs into 2018. About $5,000 in legal fees rolled over from 2017, bringing the coroner's office expense to $10,292.43. The coroner has budgeted $10,000 for 2018, and has already used 44 percent of that.

The Glasgow School District has spent more than $40,000 in its fight to get the transcript. A Howard County judge ruled several months ago that the district should receive it.

"We only got it after all this time and all this expense," said the district's attorney, Tom Mickes.

On Wednesday, the judge also ruled in favor of the Columbia Missourian, which filed a suit when the coroner's office would not release the transcript to them either. The transcript will now be available to the general public. ABC 17 has requested a copy from the coroner.

Now that it has the transcript and accompanying exhibits, Mickes said the district can defend itself against claims made in the inquest. District officials were apparently not allowed to attend and don't know exactly what was said during it. Mickes said district officials can also prepare for any legal action they may face.

In April, the district plans to get its $40,000 back as well sanction the coroner's office for the delays in releasing the records.

"Under the statute, the Sunshine Law was violated intentionally," said Mickes.

Arguments on that motion are scheduled for April 4.

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