Neighbors schedule court date, allege misconduct in CAFO appeal
CALLAWAY COUNTY - Members of the neighborhood group fighting to keep a hog confinement out of their area said Saturday they filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Clean Water Commission, alleging misconduct after an appeal of the facility.
The group Friends of Responsible Agriculture (FORAG) said it filed a lawsuit in the Cole County Circuit Court Wednesday. The lawsuit came after the group appealed in February to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission (AHC), which hears appeals on behalf of the Clean Water Commission. The group appealed in hopes of stopping the Clean Water Commission from issuing a permit to Callaway Farrowing, allowing the development of the nearly 10,000 hog confinement.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that "although the Commission is required by law to only consider evidence presented at the February AHC hearing, on March 31 and April 1, five different members of the Commission conducted independent fact-finding tours of two other hog CAFOs."
The group references Missouri Supreme Court rule 2-2.9(c) which says, "A judge shall not investigate facts in a matter independently and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that properly may be judicially noticed."
After learning about the tours, FORAG's attorney, Stephen Jeffery, wrote a letter to the Missouri Attorney General's Office stating because FORAG was not asked to attend the tours, they could not conduct proper cross-examination. Jeffery also asked some commissioners to recuse themselves from the case. A response from the attorney general's office said no commissioner would recuse him or herself.
Friday, Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce signed a prohibition stating no further action could be taken on FORAG's appeal until the court said it could resume. That decision would come after a July 6 court date on the suit FORAG filed Wednesday.
FORAG President Jeff Jones said Saturday the DNR, the Administrative Hearing Commission, and Callaway Farrowing, the group trying to build the CAFO, had been issued summons from Cole County.
"We were shocked to learn that the CAFO tours took place during the time that the commissioners were trying to make their decisions," Jones said.
Shirley Kidwell lives near Jones, where the Callaway Farrowing CAFO would be built. She said when FORAG asked the Clean Water Commission in November to come to the area around where the CAFO would be built, no one came.
"I'm pleased that Judge Joyce issued the prohibition," Kidwell said.
Supporters of the hog confinement have claimed it could mean cheaper costs to raise swine and that that facility is designed to avoid spills. Others have said it would create some jobs in the area.
Kidwell said "There will be road damage for the county, excessive water use, as well as the waste that's going to be dumped on the highly errodible land in this area."
Jones and Kidwell said until their July 6 court date, they planned to turn to their attorney for counsel on what to do next.