COLUMBIA, Mo. — Yesterday, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger emphasized the importance of a lawsuit filed by Attorney Mark Pedroli against Governor Greitens for allegedly violating Sunshine Law through his use of the text message-deleting app Confide. Messenger notes that Pedroli’s lawsuit is critical “as it relates to the future of democracy in the state of Missouri.” Pedroli recently filed a response to the Governor’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit, which said in part, “…according to the Defendants, the Governor and Office of Governor can destroy whatever public documents they want, without ramification, so long as the Office of Governor is fortunate enough to have an Attorney General Office (“AGO”) willing to look the other way.”
Pedroli slammed Attorney General Josh Hawley’s conduct during his investigation into the Governor’s use of Confide, noting that the AGO was “unwilling to argue over the governor’s assertion of executive privilege [and]…only attempted to address Confide communications by and among a few members of the governor’s staff.” Pedroli writes that Greitens is now trying to hide behind the “tattered blanket of an AGO inquiry that caused the entire State of Missouri to collectively roll their eyes,” in the hope that it will allow him to get away with breaking Missouri law.
…According to the Defendants, the Governor and Office of Governor can destroy whatever public documents they want, without ramification, so long as the Office of Governor is fortunate enough to have an Attorney General Office (“AGO”) willing to look the other way. Defendants claim only the AGO can enforce the law when the Governor’s Office destroys public records that should have been retained. Defendants’ legal arguments are not just abhorrent to Missouri law, public policy, and Missouri’s efforts to aspire to a more transparent government, but Defendants arguments present an existential threat to Missouri’s entire document retention and Sunshine regime.
Defendant cannot seek safety under the tattered blanket of an AGO inquiry that caused the entire State of Missouri to collectively roll their eyes … It’s awkward, to say the least, that the same governor, who refused an interview with the AGO, and asserted executive privilege on behalf of his staff, now asks this Court to endorse the AGO’s so-called findings related to a handful of staff members, findings that specifically exclude the Governor. Not only is the AGO report and any so-called “fact finding”, far outside the scope of the pleadings and inappropriate for a Motion to Dismiss, especially regarding the type of communications deleted.
…For the first time in Missouri history, the AGO argued that the “transitory” classification of the record retention laws is to be loosely interpreted, allowing immediate destruction of a wide variety of official communications, emails and text messages, and furthermore, the sender and/or recipient can decide alone, instantly, and even in a premeditated manner, whether the public record about public business can be destroyed.
…Plaintiff must also briefly address the AGO’s fact-finding because it is again deeply relied on by Defendants. Notwithstanding the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the AGO’s fact finding, and methods of determining the truth of witnesses by the shiftiness of their eyes, Defendants are not protected by the AGO’s advisory legal interpretations or fact-finding at any stage of these proceedings. The AGO complained they didn’t have subpoena power, couldn’t interview the governor, and were unwilling to argue over the governor’s assertion of executive privilege. The AGO couldn’t even ask the governor’s staff about the general nature of their Confide communications with the governor. Outside of the Office of Governor’s Press Releases — there is no AGO finding that the Confide communications sent or received between the governor and his staff were “transitory” or otherwise the type of communications appropriate to destroy under the Agency Records Disposition Schedule. That never happened. The AGO only attempted to address Confide communications by and among a few members of the governor’s staff (not all). To date, there has been no inquiry from any government agency (that Plaintiff is aware of) into the facts relevant to this case. Defendants obviously want to shut down the Cole County inquiry too because it’s in their best interests.