Missouri governor settles with AG over e-mails

Chris Rizo Dec. 24, 2008, 12:01am

Jay Nixon (D)

Matt Blunt (R)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's office has settled a lawsuit that accused the Republican governor's administration of state open records laws.

As a part of the agreement, Blunt's office will turn over thousands of e-mails to investigators for state Attorney General Jay Nixon.

In exchange for the e-mails from the outgoing first-term governor and five of his staffers from a three-month period in 2007, investigators agreed not to re-file a lawsuit seeking the records.

The e-mail controversy began last year after the firing of staff attorney Scott Eckersley, who claimed he was dismissed after warning the governor's office that deleting official e-mails might violate Missouri's Sunshine Law.

In settling the case, Blunt has admitted to no wrongdoing.

The attorney general late last year appointed special investigators to probe whether Blunt's office was complying with the state's e-mail retention laws.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan dismissed the lawsuit, saying the special investigator, retired state highway patrol superintendent Mel Fisher, had no authority to file the complaint in Nixon's name.

The judge also said Fisher failed to establish a personal claim by citing his rights under the state's open-government Sunshine Law.

"Plaintiff Fisher in his capacity as a Special Investigator for the Attorney General lacks standing to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the attorney general for the state of Missouri," Callahan wrote in his ruling.

The attorney general's lawsuit was set to go to trial Jan. 5, just a week before Blunt leaves office and Nixon becomes the state's next governor, after handily winning the Nov. 4 election.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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