St. Louis attorneys, not Josh Hawley, get answers from Greitens on Confide
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Columbia Daily Tribune editorial writer Hank Waters today denounced Josh Hawley’s investigation into Governor Greitens’ use of Confide, saying that his “every belief about the Sunshine Law denies Hawley’s interpretation.” Waters also noted that a lawyer challenging Greitens’ use of Confide has subpoenaed Hawley for information explaining why his investigation found no wrongdoing. According to The Kansas City Star, it was that same lawsuit — not Hawley’s investigation — that forced Governor Greitens to admit that he used text message-deleting app, Confide.
…I have carried my “curbstone” designation proudly through the years, trying my best to accurately render general impressions of legal issues intended to help elucidate if not finally decide weighty issues of the day.
The issue deserving much of this attention has been the state Open Meetings and Records Law, affectionately known as the “Sunshine Law,” in the news lately regarding the governor’s use of an internet app known as “Confide” that automatically and permanently erases text messages after a brief length of time. This creation of the code makers’ art clearly is intended to confound the Sunshine Law, which has been interpreted to require disclosure of digital communication by public officials.
However in defense of Gov. Eric Greitens, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley contends the Sunshine Law does not apply to the messages in question because none contained important enough information.
…My every belief about the Sunshine Law denies Hawley’s interpretation. If his personal allegation about the value of the governor’s Confide messages can determine whether they should be disclosed, the law means nothing.
Indeed, the law has been explicitly written and interpreted to be inclusive. Every public record and meeting shall be open except for exemptions specified in the law. Whether documented on foolscap or yellow legal pad or email, the medium is not a factor. If Gov. Greitens produces an email message the mere overlay of the Confide application means nothing.
…Indeed, a lawyer challenging Greitens’ use of Confide has issued a subpoena requesting more information from Hawley explaining why he found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Gov. Eric Greitens used an app that erases text messages to communicate with his taxpayer-funded staff, although he denies any suggestion that doing so violated Missouri’s open records laws.
The revelation comes in response to a lawsuit filed in December by two St. Louis attorneys over Greitens and his senior government staff using Confide, an app that allows someone to send a text message that automatically erases after it is read.
…In response to a series of questions from the attorneys suing Greitens, the governor’s lawyers admitted in court filings that prior to Jan. 17, 2018, Greitens “occasionally used Confide to communicate with members of the Office of Governor about scheduling in a manner that was consistent with the requirements of the Open Records Law.”
Greitens would neither admit nor deny that he used Confide to communicate with political donors, nonprofits, political action committees or staff of the president or vice president’s office.
The governor also refused to admit or deny that he used Confide to communicate with a list of people associated with his campaign’s obtaining the donor list of a veterans charity called The Mission Continues. The use of the charity’s donor list is the subject of felony computer tampering charges in St. Louis.
“It’s not up to the governor to decide whether the governor broke the law,” said Mark Pedroli, one of the attorneys suing Greitens. “That’s the decision of the judge or jury.”
Pointing to the several dozen times Greitens answered the written questions with the answer, “we neither admit nor deny,” Pedroli said he would seek to obtain a “court order compelling him to answer.”
…The Star first reported in early December that Greitens and his senior staff were using Confide. The revelation sparked an investigation by Attorney General Josh Hawley into whether Confide was being used to destroy public records.
The attorney general’s investigation concluded in March, determining that there was no evidence of wrongdoing — in part because the app itself ensured there was no evidence.
…The attorney general’s office did not interview four other staff members who had Confide accounts associated with their personal cell phones: deputy legislative director Brad Green, deputy legislative director Jeff Earl, legislative and policy adviser Todd Scott, and press secretary Parker Briden.
The attorney general’s office also didn’t interview Greitens.