JANUARY 08, 2009
The governor who purposely violated his state’s open records law by destroying public files containing damaging information about his administration has spent 1.5 million taxpayer dollars for his defense.
Missouri residents have been left with a costly memory of their outgoing Republican governor, Matt Blunt, who ordered his staff to delete about 1,400 electronic mails, backup computer tapes, memos and documents after a public records request from a national news organization.
The files included communication between the governor’s office and anti-abortion interests and embarrassing emails attempting to pressure state authorities to issue a disparaging report on Blunt’s political rival, then State Attorney General Jay Nixon who was elected governor in November. Faced with low approval ratings, Blunt didn’t run for reelection claiming that he wanted to spend more time with his family.
He was gracious enough to stick Missouri residents with the hefty legal tab to defend his repeated violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, which says emails are public record and must be kept for at least three years. Instead, Blunt “knowingly and purposely” ordered the information to be deleted, according to court-appointed investigators.
Blunt even fired his deputy counsel (Scott Eckersley) in retaliation for exposing the administration’s illegal public records destruction scheme. A majority of the taxpayer-financed legal fees—more than $900,000—has gone to defend Blunt in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Eckersely. Nearly $600,000 has been spent on a separate state investigation into the scandal with a big chunk going toward Blunt’s defense.
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