A former attorney with the Blunt Administration who was fired for questioning whether the administration’s e-mail policy violated the state Sunshine Law returned to the Capitol, to testify in favor of a bill which would strengthen the law.
Lawyer Scott Eckersley says he returned to the Capitol to encourage lawmakers to strengthen the state Sunshine Law.
“I think just going through what I went through where this was really one of the essential issues in the lawsuit has given it a pretty soft place in my heart, I suppose,” Eckersley said in an interview after testifying before the House Standing Committee on General Laws.
Eckersley was fired as deputy general counsel to Governor Blunt in September of 2007. The governor’s office cited poor job performance. Eckersley claimed it was because he considered the administration’s routine deletion of e-mails a violation of Sunshine Law, which he says is important to the average Missourian.
“You start reading it, you start yawning,” Eckersley said. “But when you start looking at it as a law that really provides folks ownership in their own government, that’s kind of the way I see it.”
Eckersley settled a lawsuit against Blunt and his top aides for half a million dollars after a protracted legal battle, which he says didn’t sour him on state government.
“I think you go through something like I went through and had the ending not been victorious for me, in clearing my name and promoting principles that I thought were important, it might have soured me. This didn’t sour me,” Eckersley said.
The legal battles cost the taxpayers about $2 million and cast a shadow over the final months of the Blunt Administration. The governor and his aides never admitted any wrongdoing in the incident.
Eckersley testified in favor of HB 1444/1445 sponsored by Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka). Jones succeeded in getting the modifications to the Sunshine Law through the House last year and into a Senate committee, but it failed to pass the Senate. Eckersley said he primarily favors the increased penalties in the bill and hopes it will also strengthen protections for whistle-blowers, like him.
Eckersley left the state after leaving the Blunt Administration, going to California where he earned a MBA from the University of Southern California. He says he must complete some continuing legal education courses to be certified for the Missouri Bar. He has returned to Springfield and stated that he is in a period of transition.