610.011. Liberal construction of law to be public policy. — 1. It is the public policy of this state that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public governmental bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.200 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy.
2. Except as otherwise provided by law, all public meetings of public governmental bodies shall be open to the public as set forth in section 610.020, all public records of public governmental bodies shall be open to the public for inspection and copying as set forth in sections 610.023 to 610.026, and all public votes of public governmental bodies shall be recorded as set forth in section 610.015.
(L. 1987 S.B. 2, A.L. 2004 S.B. 1020, et al.)
Liberally construed. That means access to public records is the norm.
This morning, from 2020 Attorney General candidate Elad Gross (D):
Elad Gross @BigElad
Big news in my Sunshine Law case!
On Friday, the Western District Court of Appeals accepted three amicus briefs in support of my lawsuit from 4 orgs:
@aclu_mo, the Freedom Center of MO, @missouripress, and @MarkPedroli and the Sunshine and Gov’t Accountability Project.
8:00 AM · Dec 14, 2019
And the explanation thread:
I identified 27 groups and individuals with ties to a scheme to hide the identities of political donors in Missouri. I asked the Office of the Governor for any communications with those folks.
The answer: Over 13,000 records responsive to my request.
Sometimes, the government charges copying fees for public records. These records appear to be electronic, which means copying costs shouldn’t be high at all.
But I was charged over $3,600 to access the records at a rate of $40 per hour. That was more than double what the previous administration charged (and more than double the rate I got paid as an Assistant Attorney General!).
Despite my requests, the government refused to reconsider and the Attorney General – who is supposed to enforce Missouri’s Sunshine Law – never answered me.
I eventually filed a lawsuit to enforce the Sunshine Law. I’ve been in court fighting this with my money for over a year.
Through litigation, I discovered the government was charging me so much money not to make copies, but to have an attorney review public records. Charging for an attorney had never been allowed by a court.
Until my case.
The judge ruled against me and said the government could charge attorney’s fees.
That means that the only folks who can access records from our government now must have enough money to pay for a lawyer.
And the Attorney General has been training state agencies to charge these fees. School boards, health departments, our state hiding records about kids getting dropped from health care services: All of these documents will be inaccessible for most people.
That’s not how the Sunshine Law has ever worked, and it’s not how it is supposed to work. It was designed to allow the public to have transparency, to access public records, to hold our government accountable.
In a few months, I’ll explain that to the Court of Appeals, and, hopefully, we’ll make Missouri’s Sunshine Law work again.
I’m proud to fight for the freedom of the press and for public transparency, and I’m honored to have such wonderful organizations in my corner.
Sunshine is a very good thing.