DECEMBER 04, 2008
Court appointed investigators have determined that Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and his staff “knowingly and purposely” violated the state’s public records law when they denied several news outlets access to electronic mail.
A Cole County Circuit Court Judge appointed the investigators—one Democrat and one Republican—to probe the violations after allegations that the Republican governor and his staff refused to disclose the information as per the state’s Sunshine Law.
Under the law emails are public record and must be kept for at least three years and, in some cases, must be saved for the state archives. However, when a local newspaper requested emails last year involving communications between the governor’s office and anti-abortion interests, some staff members said the information didn’t exist.
The governor’s spokesman then asserted that there was no statute or case that requires the state to retain the emails as public record. The administration also disregarded recommendations from its legal counsel to disclose the information as per state law. The staff attorney eventually got fired for his opinion and has filed a wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit.
In all, about 1,400 emails are being withheld and the governor’s new story is that they are somehow exempt from disclosure. It may end up costing him since, under Missouri law, public officials and government bodies can be slapped with fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for violating the Sunshine Law.
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