An issue in the background of the lawsuit filed against Governor Blunt’s office has significance well beyond the tenure of Matt Blunt.
For now, special investigators have been blocked from forcing Governor Blunt to give sworn testimony in the lawsuit that claims his office violated state law by deleting e-mails that should have been retained as public records. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan agreed with Blunt’s defense team during a hearing in Jefferson City, saying that the initial request that Blunt give a deposition in the case was too broad. Callahan has indicated he might reconsider his decision if the team resubmits a request that outlines specific areas of inquiry.
One of the special assistant attorneys general, Joe Maxwell, says the governor’s testimony is vital to the investigation, "We some statement as to what he knew and when he knew it."
Maxwell says Blunt’s Chief Counsel, Henry Herschel, has already admitted that he provided incorrect legal advice about e-mails, advice he corrected and filed. Maxwell says the governor can clear up whether he ever received the correction.
Maxwell and Louis Leonatti are investigating the case on behalf of the Attorney General. They argue Missouri law doesn’t grant the governor "executive privilege" to block their request. Callahan responded by reminding the two their request was not just of any individual, but of the governor of the state of Missouri.
Governor Blunt believes if he submits to their request, he’ll set a bad precedent.
"I think as a matter of policy for future governors," Blunt says, "I don’t know that they should be deposed on cases that they don’t really have anything to do with or have any direct connection."
Blunt says he’s worried action he takes now will affect governors in the future.
"I would think people ought to be concerned about that. The idea that the governor can be dragged into legal cases that all sorts of depositions have demonstrated he had absolutely nothing to do with is I think has some real bearing on the future."
The lawsuit claims the governor’s office deleted e-mails that should have been retained and refused to release e-mails that should be considered public record. A trial on the case has been scheduled to begin January 5 th in the Cole County Courthouse in Jefferson City.