Gov. Mike Parson’s office denied the Star’s request to send emails containing the number “407.1500” that would reveal how often he uses specific state law to withhold cases.
Why? In an ironic twist, a state official said that an ongoing lawsuit that is already trying to get more information from the governor’s office allows them to keep the files secret.
Parson’s attorneys filed a motion last week with the Missouri, Western District Court of Appeals, seeking a court order protecting the governor’s office from handing over the documents in an earlier identical claim. Attorney Mark Pedroli is embroiled in a legal battle over the state’s Sunshine Law that dates back to former Governor Eric Greitens’ use of the destructive Confide messaging app during his tenure.
After Parson’s attorneys filed the motion, The Star filed its own claim for the same documents. Parson’s custodian of records, Taylor Jones, on Monday denied the claim – citing the Sunshine case involving Pedroli. Jones referred to state law that allows, but does not require, the closure of files related to lawsuits and disputes involving public government bodies.
âThe files you request are closed or confidential under Missouri law,â Jones wrote.
In the Sunshine lawsuit, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem ruled in 2019 that Greitens’ use of Confide, who is now appearing in the United States Senate, and his staff did not violate the law of the state. The move was a blow to transparency advocates and Ben Sansone, an open government activist who filed a complaint.
Beetem in December 2020 then discovered that the governor’s office had illegally redacted information, only to reverse its decision weeks later. Sansone, represented by Pedroli, appealed in April, referring the case to the Court of Appeal.
Pedroli last month filed a Sunshine claim for emails sent and received by the governor’s office since 2017 with the keyword “407.1500” – a reference to Missouri law that the office previously cited to deny claims mobile phone numbers used by the governor that are part of the current appeal matter.
The law, which does not cover disclosure of documents, allows the attorney general to prosecute businesses and organizations when they fail to provide a notice of personal information breach. A circuit court judge previously said the decision to cite the law to deny the recordings represented a “new approach” and suggested the argument was overblown.
Parson’s attorneys filed a protective order in the appeals case last Wednesday that would ensure Parson does not have to turn the documents over to Sansone. The court has not yet followed up on the case.