Best Gadfly St. Louis 2008 - John Chasnoff
For most of the past nine years, John Chasnoff, a house painter, has been an outspoken — but polite — critic of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Then the 2006 World Series ticket scandal struck, and Chasnoff felt compelled to get down and dirty. Like some of the media outlets in town (including this newspaper, which broke the story), Chasnoff promptly made a Sunshine Law request for the file chronicling the department's investigation of the brouhaha. And, like the reporters, Chasnoff was stymied; police department lawyers would not shine the light on anything more than a press release. Chasnoff, a member of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, had been making open-records requests for years, and with good results. That he was suddenly rebuffed, he says, "made me all the more curious to know what's in that file." Good gadfly that he is, Chasnoff persisted. In late 2007, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, he filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court seeking access to the full investigative file. Though it'll likely be a year or more before the public gets a chance to see whether a department cover-up spared any blue or white shirts from punishment (Chasnoff and the police department have each pledged to appeal the circuit judge's decision should they find themselves on the losing side) thanks to Chasnoff, we at least have a chance of bringing the relevant documents to light.