National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

OpEd: The Sun shines on all in Missouri, but not always equally

Over the next few weeks, many of you will be seeing your present (and/or prospective) state legislators and senators cross your towns. They are in the midst of campaigns. They are telling you and your voters why they should be elected to fill seats in Jefferson City beginning in January.

They will tell you what is wrong with the way government is run. It’s no surprise they believe there is a lot “wrong” with the way our state government is being run. State Auditor Nicole Galloway also believes there is wrong in our state legislature, and she recently released two reports including, among other issues, what she sees as violations of the state Sunshine Law.

The 19-page report on the audit of the House of Representatives and the 17-page report on the audit of the Senate detail areas with Sunshine Law deficiencies. First, the reports focus on records held by the House of Representatives and by the Senate. Both legislative bodies are entities “created by statute,” and therefore the records retained by both bodies are inherently “records” subject to the Sunshine Law. All such records are “open” unless the House or Senate defines what records are specifically closed. All public bodies are required to do that. They need a policy defining that a certain record is closed; otherwise, it is an open record. The House of Representatives has no such policy, the state auditor found, and neither does the Missouri Senate.