A judge in Jefferson City must decide whether a lawsuit filed by a special investigative team seeking e-mail correspondence from Governor Blunt’s office should be allow to go forward.
Two sides presented their arguments before Circuit Judge Richard Callahan at the Cole County Courthouse. A special, independent investigative team appointed by Attorney General Jay Nixon has requested 45 categories of e-mails from the governor’s office.
"We’ve been trying to get these records for the past seven months," says Chet Pleban, the attorney for the team, "We’ve had one roadblock after another."
Pleban says the team has no choice but to file a lawsuit, seeking access to back-up tapes of e-mails the team contends were destroyed in violation of the state records retention law and the Sunshine Law. But attorneys for the governor have asked Callahan to dismiss the suit, questioning the authority of the team.
The Governor’s General Counsel, Lowell Pearson, asserts the team led by former State Highway Patrol Superintendent Mel Fisher doesn’t have the proper authority. Pearson further asserts the governor’s office would be glad to comply with the team’s request if paid $540,000 to review the documents in question.
"You need to understand that they have asked for hundreds of thousands of documents," says Pearson. "And many of those will be closed and not subject to the open records law."
Pleban says that price tag is outrageous, especially since it only pays for reviewing the documents, not producing them. As for the issue of authority, Pleban says the team derives its authority from the Attorney General.
Judge Callahan has taken the case under advisement. He is also considering a request by the Associated Press, the Kansas City Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to join the lawsuit in an effort to obtain the e-mails.