COLUMBIA, Mo. — Today, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger highlighted inconsistencies in Josh Hawley’s record of supporting Missouri’s Sunshine Law, saying that Hawley needs to address these inconsistencies if he wants his rhetoric on transparency to be anything more than “a quick headline in his nascent candidacy for U.S. Senate.” Messenger also notes that Hawley argued against complying with Sunshine requests for his Mizzou emails while he was a candidate for Attorney General.
…But if Hawley — who as a law professor fought Sunshine Law disclosure — wants these lawsuits to be the beginning of a new era of compliance, and not just a quick headline in his nascent candidacy for U.S. Senate, he’s going to have to address a nagging problem:
In 2016, Brooke Ganz, who runs a California based geneological nonprofit called Reclaim the Records, filed two simple Sunshine Law requests with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Basically, she was seeking birth and death listings in the state from 1910 to 2015.
No problem, the state said, after months of delay. But the records would cost $1.4 million.
… [Ganz’s lawyer Bernie] Rhodes called the state and researched what it would take to retrieve the records.
“It was literally a couple of keystrokes,” he says.
…So, in late 2016, on Ganz’s behalf, Rhodes filed a Sunshine lawsuit.
Hawley’s office is defending it. But not very well. When Hawley was elected, there was a fair amount of turnover of attorneys in the office. Rhodes kept finding himself not being able to get responses from the attorney general’s office on the lawsuit. He couldn’t get calls back or answers to simple discovery requests.
…Indeed, it’s as shameful as a governor destroying his texts, or a county executive refusing to provide the public access to documents that show how he is rewarding his biggest campaign donors.
“We have lost track of the perspective that the government is supposed to be working for us,” Rhodes says. “Too many public officials view everything they do as none of our business. It’s the exact opposite of what the Sunshine Law says.”