Things are heating up.

Blunt sidesteps questions on ex-aides lawsuit


The Star’s Jefferson City correspondent

JEFFERSON CITY | Gov. Matt Blunt declined to answer questions Thursday about whether he played a role in a plan to destroy public records to cover up political activities by his staff.

Blunt described the lawsuit that accuses him and his staff of participating in such a scheme as mere allegations. It would be inappropriate, he said, to respond to such allegations.

“It’s now a matter for the courts,” Blunt said….

“….I’m not going to get into the accusations in the lawsuit,” Blunt replied….

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How convenient. But then, it’s the cover up…

Blunt should have learned a lesson from Watergate


Let me guess. Either Matt Blunt missed “All the President’s Men” or he nodded off before the credits rolled….

….But Blunt might not be in the fix he’s in now if he’d picked up on a key lesson of Watergate.

Which is that it’s almost always the cover-up – not what you wanted to hide – that bites you in the end….

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Update: I received a phone call while I was on the road this morning from Jeff Bauer, one of Scott Eckersley’s attorneys. He was returning my call from yesterday inquiring about getting a copy of the filed lawsuit. I explained that I had already retrieved a copy from the court annex in Independence. I then asked, “I’m assuming that there were pre-lawsuit negotiations. Is that correct?” He answered “I can’t comment about anything before it [the lawsuit] was filed.” End update

Yesterday I promised a little bit of commentary on the actual lawsuit:

2. Defendant Matthew Roy Blunteither expressly authorized, participated in, controlled, planned and/or subsequently ratified all of the unlawful acts of his agents and employees, the remaining defendants in this action….

[emphasis added]

This doesn’t look good, does it?

2. Defendant Matthew Roy Blunt…either expressly authorized, participated in, controlled, planned and/or subsequently ratified all of the unlawful acts of his agents and employees, the remaining defendants in this action….

Yes, I repeated it. I kind of liked reading it again, so I thought you would, too.

11. Defendant Martin assigned Plaintiff Eckersley responsibility for determining who was at fault for a $56 million error in the State of Missouri’s official interpretation of the minimum wage law in March, 2007.

12. Defendant Martin directed that Plaintiff Eckersley recommend whom the Governor’s Office should fire as a result of the error.

13. Plaintiff Eckersley identified the responsible party as the Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

14. Defendant Martin expressed a reluctance to fire the Director for political reasons.

15. Martin instead substituted the general counsel of the Department, a fifteen-year employee of the Department, because she had served under Governor Bob Holden, a Democrat, and her husband worked for Attorney General Nixon, also a Democrat and a likely opponent of Defendant Blunt in the 2008 election for governor.

[emphasis added]

Wow. It’s fascinating to see how they operate. A political “twofer” in the governor’s office. Political cronyism and an early start to election year revenge. Further proof from the governor and his administration that competence has never been a priority.

30. In July, 2007, Jill Lahue, the General Counsel of the Department of Public Safety COPS”), contacted Plaintiff Eckersley and informed him that Defendant Chrismer had sent several controversial emails to the Highway Patrol and DPS regarding the Taum Sauk dam rupture investigation.

31. LaHue reported that the emails had been “sunshined” and would produce a negative story.

32. After the emails were produced, the Kansas City Star ran a negative story based upon the content of the emails.

33. At the direction of Defendant Martin, Defendant Herschel called a meeting of all department general counsels in August, 2007 to discuss the potential fallout that was expected from the Chrismer emails.

34. At the meeting, Defendant Herschel stated that they could not be caught with their pants down again.

[emphasis added]

Prophecy is definitely not his strong suit.

I’m shocked, shocked I say, that the governor’s office would involve the Highway Patrol and DPS in politics.

36. Instead, in order to avoid negative press, Defendant Herschel instructed the general counsels that email would not have to be turned over in response to Sunshine Law requests if they were destroyed and not retained.

37. Defendant Herschel therefore instructed the assembled general counsels that all email should be deleted to ensure they did not have to provide such damaging evidence to the news media or the public in the future.

38. At the time the instruction to delete email was given, there were outstanding requests under the Sunshine law, and such deletion of email was in the manner of evidentiary spoliation.

39. Several attendees of the meeting protested that email was a public record which was preserved on back up whether or not the individual user deleted the item.

40. Defendant Herschel did not respond to or address these concerns, and closed the meeting confirming his direction to delete emails and deny Sunshine requests based on this deletion.

[emphasis added]

Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.

41. On or around this same time Defendant Martin instructed those in the Governor’s office to make sure they deleted their email in both the inbox and the trash files to ensure they did not have to be turned over to the press or the public in response to Sunshine requests.

42. Defendant Martin for several weeks continued to emphasize the need to delete all such email in order to deny Sunshine requests for such information.

43. Defendant Martin also instructed Defendant Herschel to emphasize this same need to destroy email communications.

44. Defendant Martin also requested the Office of General Counsel follow up to ensure that all such emails were destroyed and/or deleted with the intent to withhold such documents from the press and public.

45. Defendants, and each of them, also discussed the benefit of sending sensitive or potentially damaging communications via Blackberry text message on the belief that such text messages were not retained and would not have to be turned over to the press or the public.

Lots of witnesses. Several instances. This does not look good at all.

50. Before Eckersley could identify what was being sought, Martin told him he had already deleted everything.

51. When Eckersley persisted in identifying what was being sought under the Sunshine Law, Martin laughed and told him Defendant Chrismer was the person in the Governor’s office who had those emails.

52. Despite having identified the individual who had the material being sought, Defendant Martin instructed Eckersley to terminate the investigation and inform Mr. Messenger that no such material was available.

53. Upon receipt of Plaintiff Eckersley’s letter, Mr. Messenger cited Plaintiff Eckersley’s letter and chastised Defendant Martin for failing to produce the email, as Mr. Messenger had obtained a copy of one such email from another source already.

Helpful administrative hint #1: E-mails are forever.

Helpful administrative hint #2: Never piss off real journalists. Stenographers are another matter because they’ll print whatever you want them to (everyone say “Hi!” to Steve).

56. Plaintiff Eckersley thereafter informed Defendants Martin, Chrismer and/or Herschel that emails were stored for a period of several years after deletion by the individual user and were available even if deleted by that user.

57. On information and belief, Defendants Blunt, Martin, Aubuchon, Chrismer and/or Herschel ordered that these back-up email computer tapes be destroyed.

The smoking conspiracy…

It can’t get much worse, can it?

A sidelight:

70. Based upon his knowledge of the following ongoing issues, Plaintiff Eckersley sought assurances about his job from Martin:

a. The pattern and practice of the Office of the Governor to find a person to fire in the event of negative publicity, ostensibly to give the appearance that mistakes would not be tolerated in the administration and that the error was not the fault of the Governor or his staff;

b. Eckersley being ignored and/or retaliated against for his stance on email and electronic documents under the Sunshine Law and the Governor’s Office policy; and

c. The growing media attention related to the email issue.

[emphasis added]

You think? It’s quite interesting – what appears to be standard operating procedure in the governor’s office.

99. After Eckersley was fired, Defendants Aubuchon and Chrismer, at the direction of and/or with the full knowledge of Defendants Blunt, Martin and Herschel, prepared packets for the media containing information designed to injure, defame and smear Plaintiff Eckersley by asserting his participation in among other things, group sex and illegal drug use….

….104. Defendants, and each of them, sent the media packets with the intent and purpose that each such man, woman or child falsely believe that Eckersley was a sexual deviant, liar, user of illegal drugs, a subpar worker who produced inferior and late work, and who could not get along with either his superiors or his co workers.

105. At the time of sending the media packet information defendants knew and/or should have known the information contained therein was false.

[emphasis added – edited to actually add the emphasis]

Man, that’s just MEAN. That’s MEAN, man.

Standard operating procedure for the governor’s office.

121. Defendant Blunt on or about November 12, 2007 falsely confirmed and/or approved of the smear campaign against Scott Eckersley by representing in a public appearance in Jackson County, Missouri that the false statements about Eckersley were correct and that was the reason he was fired.

Look who’s in charge of the gang that can’t smear straight.