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Missouri attorney general sues Moscow Mills in Lincoln County over alleged traffic ticket quota scheme

Missouri attorney general sues Moscow Mills in Lincoln County over alleged traffic ticket quota scheme

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JEFFERSON CITY — Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit against the city of Moscow Mills, accusing the municipality and its police chief of “flagrantly violating” a state law that forbids traffic ticket quotas.

The 10-page lawsuit, filed this week in Lincoln County Circuit Court, accuses the city and Chief Terry Foster of encouraging officers “to write a minimum number of tickets every month” and says Foster fired one police officer who spoke out against the alleged scheme to city Mayor Patrick Flannigan.

“Missourians should not be treated as cash cows to fill municipal coffers,” Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, said in a statement. “Requiring the brave men and women of law enforcement to focus on driving municipal revenue rather than public safety is against the law.”

The lawsuit says Schmitt’s office “obtained credible information” this year on the violations of law “from whistleblowers familiar with the police department’s internal operations.”

Messages left Friday for Foster and Flannigan were not returned.

Foster, according to the lawsuit, “discourages” issuing warnings for traffic violations.

“Warnings don’t help us,” Foster is accused of saying.

The lawsuit says Moscow Mills in 2013 created a volunteer “traffic enforcement officer” position that was “later added as a” part-time job “under the assumption that it would pay for its own salary with ticket citation revenue.”

Foster, the lawsuit says, instructed the officer to issue 10 citations per day. Other officers were told to write at least five tickets each month.

The lawsuit says Foster has told the traffic enforcement officer to write 160 tickets per month, except in December and January, “in order to secure $160,000 in court citation revenue per year.”

Foster “assumed” each ticket would generate an average of $100; a line in the city’s 2021 budget provides for $160,000 in “court fine revenue,” the lawsuit says.

It says Foster warned of “layoffs and lost jobs” if the city didn’t raise enough money through tickets.

The lawsuit also says Foster has attempted to silence a whistleblower.

When one officer met with Mayor Patrick Flannigan “to discuss concerns about the traffic ticket quota scheme,” Foster found out and said “one way or another, (this officer) is (explicative) gone,” the lawsuit says.

Foster fired the officer two weeks later, the lawsuit says.

Schmitt asks for a judgment declaring that Moscow Mills is violating state law, and for court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees to be levied against the city. His office also asks for an injunction barring the city from continuing to violate the law.

Schmitt, as a state senator from Glendale, backed the operative law in 2016, Senate Bill 765, which outlawed quotas. It was part of a push at the time to rein in municipalities in the aftermath of Ferguson protests that spotlighted aggressive tactics by cities to raise revenue through citations.

Moscow Mills, on U.S. 61 just south of Troy, has grown significantly over the last decade, from about 2,500 residents to about 3,500, according to census records.

Originally posted at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 19, 2021

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