JANUARY 10, 2008
The whistleblower fired by Missouri’s governor for exposing his administration’s document destruction scandal is providing new details of how he and top officials were regularly ordered to delete files so potentially damaging information wouldn’t be available to the public.
Governor Matt Blunt also ordered the destruction of backup computer tapes containing missing electronic mail, memos and documents, amid protests from staff members who reminded him that doing so would violate Missouri’s open records laws.
The whistleblower, Scott Eckersley, was Gov. Blunt’s deputy counsel and assures that he was fired in September in retaliation for challenging and exposing his boss’s policy of violating the state’s strict open records laws. Eckersley says that Blunt’s top aides specifically ordered staff in August 2007 to delete emails and destroy backup files to avoid having to provide information to the media and public.
Some of the incriminating emails involved pressuring state authorities to issue a disparaging report on Blunt’s political rival, State Attorney General Jay Nixon who plans to oppose him in this year’s gubernatorial election. Blunt later admitted that there may have been some confusion regarding electronic mail, but he has yet to provide the back up files for the information he ordered destroyed.
It’s no wonder that Missouri, like many states, got a failing grade when it comes to providing citizens with information to hold government officials accountable for their actions. In their annual Sunshine Law report card of all 50 states, two respected groups (Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition) gave Missouri an F.
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