Missouri's governor under fire for emails
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Missouri's governor under fire for emails

Date: December 4, 2008
By: Juana Summers
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Thirteen months after allegations arose surrounding Missouri's outgoing governor's compliance with the Missouri Sunshine Law, special prosecutors are seeking fines against  Gov. Matt Blunt.  The lawsuit alleges that Blunt "knowingly and purposely" violated Missouri's open records laws by denying members of the press access to emails. and deleting them!!

The revised lawsuit, filed Wednesday and made public Thursday, is the latest step in a thirteen-month controversy surrounding the outgoing governor and a number of state employees.  The lawsuit states Blunt and the Governor's office violated state law by failing to produce requested documents, failing to adhere to "appropriate policies for the retention of public records, including e-mails," as well as charging significant amounts of money for the documents requested by local media organizations.

The revised lawsuit alleges that Ed Martin, Blunt's former chief of staff, purposely violated the Sunshine Law by denying a records request made in August 2007.  The lawsuit states Martin indicated he deleted the e-mails in question.

According to court documents, Blunt will be deposed on December 11. The outgoing governor has less than one month left in his term.  The Republican governor announced earlier this year, that he had decided not to run for reelection.

Jessica Robinson, spokesperson for the governor's office, called the revised lawsuit an "eleventh-hour effort" to develop a case involving the disputed emails.

"Hours of deposition testimony has proven that no emails were destroyed and neither the governor nor anyone in his office ever asked that any emails be destroyed," Robinson also said, in an e-mailed statement.

The Missouri Sunshine Law governs public meetings and records, regardless of the form they are held in.  Penalties for "knowingly" violating Missouri's Sunshine Law, according to information from the state Attorney General's office, are fines up to $1000.  A stricter penalty of fines up to $5,000 is allowed for those found to have "purposely" violated this law.

MU journalism professor Charles Davis said the allegations against Blunt are not the first time emails and open records laws across the nation have come into question.  He cited previous cases with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as examples of the murky territory surrounding this issue.

But Davis said these issues, when involving governors, rarely result in a guilty verdict.

"A governor has never been found guilty," Davis said. "I don't know if they ever will be.  These things tend to work their way out in a non-law enforcement context."