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MoDOT and KKK Head to the Supreme Court

August 24, 2000
By: Kate Miller
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Transportation Department filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday in a last ditch effort to exclude the Ku Klux Klan from its Adopt-A-Highway Program.

Department officials asked the court to overrule a March order by the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upholding a lower court's ruling that blocked the department from excluding the Klan from the program.

Department officials maintain that including the Klan in the program puts more than $600 million in federal funding at risk by associating the department with what the agency charges are illegal activities of the Klan.

"When they participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program, they're participating in something that is MoDOT's responsibility to manage," said department spokesperson Jeff Briggs. "It could be interpreted that we are violating the laws as well because they are acting on MoDOT's behalf."

Agency attorneys have not specified which laws the Klan was guilty of breaking.

The state agency's concern about its federal funding is supported by the U.S. Transportation Department, which filed papers on MoDOT's behalf in August of 1999 claiming the federal money was in jeopardy. Since then, two courts have held that there was no basis for funding loss.

The Klan's attorney in the case, Bob Herman, was unavailable for comment.

The Klan applied for the program in 1994. After lengthy legal battles, the Klan was given a mile of Interstate 55 in St. Louis County last November. Since then, numerous Adopt-A-Highway signs marking the mile as the Klan's have been stolen.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a law to name that portion of the highway in honor of the civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

The Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear the case when its fall term begins in October.

MoDOT may be able to rid themselves of the Klan without the courts if the Klan doesn't improve its highway maintenance.

"The Klan is expected to pick up litter in the adopted area approximately every three months, but has not done so," said MoDot director Henry Hungerbeeler in a written statement. "It is expected to abide by the rules; if the Klan fails to pick up litter regularly, its Adopt-A-Highway participation will be canceled."