Gov. Matt Blunt appears to be thumbing his nose at Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The public deserves to know if the law defining certain e-mails as public records has been broken.
Attorney General Jay Nixon should appoint an outside investigator to determine if state records purposely have been destroyed or hidden. The investigator should be politically independent and respected.
The Sunshine Law protects the public’s right to know what government officials are doing.
Meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of governmental entities are to be open to the public, unless the law specifies otherwise.
In 2001, Blunt as secretary of state signed a policy that said state agencies must retain “all general communication” for three years.
In 2004, the General Assembly defined electronic communications as public records.
Yet Blunt recently defended his office’s routine destruction of e-mail communications, saying that “nobody saves e-mails for three years.”
Blunt isn’t the only public official who has trouble with the concept of retaining electronic documents. A federal judge this week ordered the White House not to destroy backup computer tapes of its e-mail correspondence. The order results from the disappearance of White House staff e-mails.
In Missouri, the e-mail retention flap started over e-mail correspondence between Ed Martin, Blunt’s chief of staff, and right-to-life groups. When a newspaper columnist asked for other correspondence, Blunt’s staff claimed those e-mails weren’t kept.
The controversy escalated because Blunt aides smeared a former attorney of the governor’s, Scott Eckersley, who had been fired shortly after he advised the staff to save e-mails pertaining to public business.