Vienna police chief deposed in closed records case against Sheriff Heitman

By Roxie Murphy, Assistant Editor
Posted 7/3/24

VIENNA -— Vienna Police Chief Shannon Thompson was deposed on June 13 for the lawsuit between the city of Vienna and Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman regarding documents the city law …

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Vienna police chief deposed in closed records case against Sheriff Heitman


VIENNA -— Vienna Police Chief Shannon Thompson was deposed on June 13 for the lawsuit between the city of Vienna and Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman regarding documents the city law enforcement officer refused to release after a Sunshine Law records request.

According to Missouri, “the city of Vienna requested the court review the records requested in camera, pursuant to § 610.027.6 RSMo, and determine the extent that these records are open or closed and whether (Heitman) is entitled to copies of the records either in his official capacity or in his individual capacity, and make such other rulings and determinations that the Court may find advisable in the circumstances.”

Heitman requested documents from the city of Vienna in March that were mentioned in an article by the now-defunct St. Louis newspaper Riverfront Times (RFT). The former city clerk, who is the recorder of records, promised Heitman the documents. The deadline passed and Heitman was served with court papers on May 2 stating the documents were closed to the public in Judge William E. Hickle’s court. However, the case was sent to Judge John D. Beger after its first June 3 hearing.

Heitman’s attorney David F. Barrett was granted permission to review the closed records, though his client was not. Barrett conducted the 75-page deposition on June 13 with Thompson and city attorney Lauber Municipal Law, LLC’s Nathan Nickolaus in Jefferson City. The Advocate verbally requested copies of the deposition on June 13 and on July 2 received an official copy.

According to the deposition, Thompson was questioned about the “closed documents.” 

Thompson also acknowledged that he keeps copies of the closed records on his person, at his home and sometimes takes them on vacation with him via a thumb drive. He specifically mentioned “in case of fires.”

He previously released some of the same documents that Heitman requested to the now-defunct RFT reporter Ryan Krull, alleging wrong-doing from the sheriff and his deputies.

The records in question were labeled as Exhibits 1-7 during the deposition. Thompson was asked to review the RFT article and show which documents he shared with the reporter and which if any, statements were incorrect.

In the RFT article, the reporter wrote, “Thompson alleges a litany of other wrongdoing, from financial misconduct to civil rights violations, arson to insurance fraud.”

Thompson said the “litany of wrongdoing” was the reporter’s words, not his. He acknowledged sharing the five-page letter he sent to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s Office and the Missouri Governor’s Office with RFT as well as some financial documents.

The same documents the city deemed closed were sent to the Maries Countians for Accountability Facebook account. Thompson acknowledged he sent the closed record documents to the Facebook account via Facebook Messenger and took pictures of the documents.

When asked if he knew who operates the page, Thompson said, “I got an idea.”

When Heitman’s attorney asked Thompson who he suspected, the chief said, “I say they’re anonymous for a reason, so I’m going to keep that to myself.”

Barrett insisted Thompson answer the question for the court record.

“I don’t know for certain,” Thompson said.

Barrett asked who Thompson believed the page proprietor is and Thompson said again, “I got a couple of suspicions, but I don’t know for sure.”

Barrett asked for the names. Although the city’s attorney Nickolaus objected based on speculation, he told Thompson to answer.

“I know Mark Morgan’s accused of it,” Thompson said. With more prompting, he added, “Lori Morgan’s been accused of it.”

Barrett asked Thompson if he had personal knowledge of the proprietor and Thompson nodded yes.

“I think my wife started it,” Thompson said. Further prompting resulted in Thompson naming his wife Dana Thompson.

When asked for clarification on June 25 if Thompson, Morgan or either of their wives co-own or co-operate the page, Thompson said, “No. I don’t know. That’s what I’m saying. I told them who I had heard, who people had told me they suspected. Beyond that, I didn’t tell them who ran it because I can’t speculate as to who runs it for sure.”

Dana Thompson changed the name of the Maries Countians for Accountability Facebook page around June 22 to Missing Information. On June 28, Dana Thompson posted on the Missing Information page, “I am the owner and operator of this page. Mark and Lori Morgan and Shannon Thompson do not have any ties to my page. If anyone else says something different you are being lied to.”

Morgan said on July 1 that he had nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the Maries Countians for Accountability/Missing Information page.

“I have not been the person to be an author of a post on the page,” Morgan said. “I am open on my own page.”

Dana Thompson also messaged The Advocate’s Facebook page on June 26 with a similar note.

During the deposition, Thompson was further questioned about the floor in the background of the photographs sent to the page. Thompson said he doesn’t remember the floor.

Barrett asked Thompson about other agencies where he may have sent complaints about Heitman. Thompson said there were none, not even other law enforcement agencies. When questioned, Thompson said he has not been social with Morgan but has collaborated on a recent investigation concerning the sheriff with the Belle Police Department Sergeant.

Barrett asked if any of the investigations Thompson had conducted were turned over to Maries County Prosecutor Tony Skouby. Thompson said no. Only one synopsis of a recent investigation was ever presented to Skouby.

“That one was the one where the clerk alleged that Ron Knoll had threatened to kill her at the Dollar General,” Thompson said. “That’s the only one that Skouby has. And like I said, he already — he told Patrol that he was not going to pursue that before we got it completed. So I just wrote the report and provided it to his office. I didn’t — I didn’t go ahead with a probable cause statement because there was no — he’d already made a determination that he wasn’t going to file on it. That’s what he told the highway patrol, so. We just — we just went in with it. I went ahead and provided it to him for information purposes in case that cropped back up or whatever.”