First, a little lesson about the “Missouri Sunshine Law”:
Missouri Revised Statutes
Governmental Bodies and Records
Liberal construction of law to be public policy.
610.011. 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.
“Liberally construed” means, if there’s any doubt, err on the side of openness. The law is designed to allow very few restrictions. “Strictly construed” as applied to any exceptions means that the exceptions must match the letter of the law, well, strictly.
Since Representative Denny Hoskins (r – noun, verb, CPA) made a big splash this last legislative session with conceal carry on university campuses and openness in government you’d think somebody might make a request for more information. You wouldn’t be wrong:
Missouri House of Representatives
May 28, 2009
Dear [name redacted]
This letter is in response to your request for records under Chapter 610, RSMo., of May 28th, 2009 to Rep. Denny Hoskins.
Specifically, you requested the following:
“1. All written and electronic correspondence with administrators, faculty, and students at the University of Central Missouri concerning legislation pertaining to the issue of concealed and carry of firearms in Missouri.
2. All written and electronic correspondence with lobbyist registered with the Missouri Ethics Commission from May 8th, 2009 through May 15th, 2009.”
As the custodian of records of the Missouri House of representatives I am not providing the requested records for the following reasons:
1. Rep. Denny Hoskins is not a ‘public governmental body’ under chapter 610 of the Missouri Statutes and therefore, not required to open all records contained therein.
2. The information requested may not be a “public record” as defined in Chapter 610.
3. Even if Rep. Denny Hoskins were a “public governmental body” (which it is not) and even if the requested information were “public records” (which they may not be), the information requested could well be exempt pursuant to 610.021.
D. Adam Crumbliss
There’s a certain irony to the assertion that the Missouri General Assembly is not a public governmental body. Then again, given the way the republican majority operates, I could see why they think that way.
Then there’s that liberally/strictly construed language in the statute which this response appears to not quite address with its very mushy language (“may not” and “could well be”).
So, in the past have the executive branch of state government and all state representatives reacted in this same fashion to a Missouri Sunshine Law request? Nope:
(then Representative Jeff Harris, May 22, 2008)
…Well, lo and behold, the next day I get in my office and I have a request from Trish Vincent, who is the governor’s [Matt Blunt] chief of staff, for every single e-mail my office has ever created or received since I took office in 2003 and all back up tapes. And every document we’ve created or received since 2003. My response the very next day to Trish Vincent was, you can have, we’ve done a preliminary assessment, because I don’t want to disclose anyone’s social security number, for example, but I said you could have 75,000 pages of documents, five thousand e-mails, come and get ’em, it’ll cost you ten thousand dollars. So I did comply with that request. I also suggested that she could narrow her request to save taxpayer dollars. She did. She asked for all of my documents and e-mails on February 20th 2008. To my knowledge there’s nothing magical about that day. We looked at February 20th 2008 and I produced, Mike, approximately two hundred and fifty pages of documents and e-mails to Ms. Vincent for February 20th 2008 and I told her that because the costs wee de minimus, she didn’t, I didn’t need to charge here for copying. She tendered me a check for about twenty four bucks that was payable to my office that I don’t think I can cash and it has not yet been cashed. So I did comply. And I would, I would comply again because I believe in the sunshine law…
Here are the strictly construed exceptions under Chapter 610.021 RSMo:
Missouri Revised Statutes
Governmental Bodies and Records
Closed meetings and closed records authorized when, exceptions, sunset dates for certain exceptions.
610.021. Except to the extent disclosure is otherwise required by law, a public governmental body is authorized to close meetings, records and votes, to the extent they relate to the following:
(1) Legal actions, causes of action or litigation involving a public governmental body and any confidential or privileged communications between a public governmental body or its representatives and its attorneys. However, any minutes, vote or settlement agreement relating to legal actions, causes of action or litigation involving a public governmental body or any agent or entity representing its interests or acting on its behalf or with its authority, including any insurance company acting on behalf of a public government body as its insured, shall be made public upon final disposition of the matter voted upon or upon the signing by the parties of the settlement agreement, unless, prior to final disposition, the settlement agreement is ordered closed by a court after a written finding that the adverse impact to a plaintiff or plaintiffs to the action clearly outweighs the public policy considerations of section 610.011, however, the amount of any moneys paid by, or on behalf of, the public governmental body shall be disclosed; provided, however, in matters involving the exercise of the power of eminent domain, the vote shall be announced or become public immediately following the action on the motion to authorize institution of such a legal action. Legal work product shall be considered a closed record;
(2) Leasing, purchase or sale of real estate by a public governmental body where public knowledge of the transaction might adversely affect the legal consideration therefor. However, any minutes, vote or public record approving a contract relating to the leasing, purchase or sale of real estate by a public governmental body shall be made public upon execution of the lease, purchase or sale of the real estate;
(3) Hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body when personal information about the employee is discussed or recorded. However, any vote on
a final decision, when taken by a public governmental body, to hire, fire, promote or discipline an employee of a public governmental body shall be made available with a record of how each member voted to the public within seventy-two hours of the close of the meeting where such action occurs; provided, however, that any employee so affected shall be entitled to prompt notice of such decision during the seventy-two-hour period before such decision is made available to the public. As used in this subdivision, the term “personal information” means information relating to the performance or merit of individual employees;
(4) The state militia or national guard or any part thereof;
(5) Nonjudicial mental or physical health proceedings involving identifiable persons, including medical, psychiatric, psychological, or alcoholism or drug dependency diagnosis or treatment;
(6) Scholastic probation, expulsion, or graduation of identifiable individuals, including records of individual test or examination scores; however, personally identifiable student records maintained by public educational institutions shall be open for inspection by the parents, guardian or other custodian of students under the age of eighteen years and by the parents, guardian or other custodian and the student if the student is over the age of eighteen years;
(7) Testing and examination materials, before the test or examination is given or, if it is to be given again, before so given again;
(8) Welfare cases of identifiable individuals;
(9) Preparation, including any discussions or work product, on behalf of a public governmental body or its representatives for negotiations with employee groups;
(10) Software codes for electronic data processing and documentation thereof;
(11) Specifications for competitive bidding, until either the specifications are officially approved by the public governmental body or the specifications are published for bid;
(12) Sealed bids and related documents, until the bids are opened; and sealed proposals and related documents or any documents related to a negotiated contract until a contract is executed, or all proposals are rejected;
(13) Individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment, except that this exemption shall not apply to the names, positions, salaries and lengths of service of officers and employees of public agencies once they are employed as such, and the names of private sources donating or contributing money to the salary of a chancellor or president at all public colleges and universities in the state of Missouri and the amount of money contributed by the source;
(14) Records which are protected from disclosure by law;
(15) Meetings and public records relating to scientific and technological innovations in which the owner has a proprietary interest;
(16) Records relating to municipal hotlines established for the reporting of abuse and wrongdoing;
(17) Confidential or privileged communications between a public governmental body and its auditor, including all auditor work product; however, all final audit reports issued by the auditor are to be considered open records pursuant to this chapter;
*(18) Operational guidelines and policies developed, adopted, or maintained by any public agency responsible for law enforcement, public safety, first response, or public health for use in responding to or preventing any critical incident which is or appears to be terrorist in nature and which has the potential to endanger individual or public safety or health. Nothing in this exception shall be deemed to close information regarding expenditures, purchases, or contracts made by an agency in implementing these guidelines or policies. When seeking to close information pursuant to this exception, the agency shall affirmatively state in writing that disclosure would impair its ability to protect the safety or health of persons, and shall in the same writing state that the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure of the records. This exception shall sunset on December 31, 2012;
*(19) Existing or proposed security systems and structural plans of real property owned or leased by a public governmental body, and information that is voluntarily submitted by a nonpublic entity owning or operating an infrastructure to any public governmental body for use by that body to devise plans for protection of that infrastructure, the public disclosure of which would threaten public safety:
(a) Records related to the procurement of or expenditures relating to security systems purchased with public funds shall be open;
(b) When seeking to close information pursuant to this exception, the public governmental body shall affirmatively state in writing that disclosure would impair the public governmental body’s ability to protect the security or safety of persons or real property, and shall in the same writing state that the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure of the records;
(c) Records that are voluntarily submitted by a nonpublic entity shall be reviewed by the receiving agency within ninety days of submission to determine if retention of the document is necessary in furtherance of a state security interest. If retention is not necessary, the documents shall be returned to the nonpublic governmental body or destroyed;
(d) This exception shall sunset on December 31, 2012;
(20) Records that identify the configuration of components or the operation of a computer, computer system, computer network, or telecommunications network, and would allow unauthorized access to or unlawful disruption of a computer, computer system, computer network, or telecommunications network of a public governmental body. This exception shall not be used to limit or deny access to otherwise public records in a file, document, data file or database containing public records. Records related to the procurement of or expenditures relating to such computer, computer system, computer network, or telecommunications network, including the amount of moneys paid by, or on behalf of, a public governmental body for such computer, computer system, computer network, or telecommunications network shall be open; and
(21) Credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, digital certificates, physical and virtual keys, access codes or authorization codes that are used to protect the security of electronic transactions between a public governmental body and a person or entity doing business with a public governmental body. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to close the record of a person or entity using a credit card held in the name of a public governmental body or any record of a transaction made by a person using a credit card or other method of payment for which reimbursement is made by a public governmental body.
Ah yes, openness in Missouri government can be such a breath of fresh air. Not.