Missouri AG proposes changes to strengthen open records laws

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley proposed legislative changes Monday he said would help better enforce state records request and records retention laws.

In December, Hawley announced his office would investigate potential violations of the state’s open records law after it was discovered that Gov. Eric Greitens and his staff had been using an app that deletes text messages after they have been read. But that move was a departure from a far more common trend where state agencies, including the governor’s office, are exempt from the attorney general’s scrutiny because that office also defends those agencies in court.

At Monday’s press conference, Hawley announced he believed that decision was the right one and said it was necessary to introduce new measures — including a new prosecutorial arm to handle cases where there’s a clear conflict of interest — to ensure the state’s Sunshine Law and open records law can be properly enforced.

“I think it’s become abundantly clear, certainly with this office, that we need to take steps to strengthen the enforcement of the Sunshine Law,” Hawley said. “There’s some very common sense steps that can be taken now, that can be taken this year by the legislature, to strengthen the enforcement mechanisms of the Sunshine Law.”

A new “Office of Transparency” would operate from within the Attorney General’s office, but would be firewalled from acting as legal counsel for state agencies — essentially eliminating any conflicts of interest. “Meaning that folks who work in this office … would never defend an executive agency,” Hawley said. Read more…