Judge denies Rob Sanders' request to close personnel file

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 | 10:34 a.m. CDT; updated 7:13 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 7, 2014

COLUMBIA — The personnel file of former Columbia Police Officer Rob Sanders will remain open, a Cole County circuit judge has ruled.

Judge Patricia Joyce of the 19th Circuit Court denied a motion filed by Sanders to keep his file sealed in his petition for reinstatement to the Columbia Police force. 

On Jan. 24, Sanders asked for judicial review of his September 2011 firing. Along with his initial filing for review, attorney Scott Jansen filed a motion to keep Sanders' personnel record sealed. 

"I don't think my client has to reveal his personnel file to the world in order to get judicial review on his termination," Jansen said in January.

Sanders claimed he was fired without cause by Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton and that the move was wrongly upheld by City Manager Mike Matthes.

Jansen said Sanders was fired as a reaction to public outrage over an incident involving Sanders and a prisoner, Kenneth Baker, that resulted in head and back injuries for Baker and a third-degree assault charge against Sanders.

Sanders was acquitted in October 2013.

An Internal Affairs Division investigation concluded that Sanders followed police protocol. He and his attorney maintain that a single incident prompted Sanders' firing  and, thus, it was not appropriate for his personnel file to be open.

John Landwehr, a Jefferson City attorney representing the city of Columbia in this case, said the file should be open because it provides context for the decision to fire Sanders.

In addition to ruling on the personnel file, Joyce set deadlines related to Sanders' appeal of his firing. He has until June 20 to outline his arguments, and Landwehr must respond by July 21. Sanders then has until to Aug. 5 to reply. Under that timeline, Joyce will hear the case sometime in the fall, Landwehr said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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