Blunt makes another effort to have e-mail lawsuit deleted

Friday, September 12, 2008 | 6:23 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Attorneys representing Gov. Matt Blunt and Missouri's top computer officer are seeking dismissal of a lawsuit over access to the governor's office e-mails.

Blunt and information officer Dan Ross filed motions this week in Cole County Circuit Court claiming the lawsuit fails to make clear, specific allegations and fails to support its assertions. Judge Richard Callahan scheduled a hearing on the dismissal motions for Sept. 24.

Ross' attorney contends that the state information officer is not the custodian of any public record and therefore should not be named in a lawsuit seeking access to documents.

The lawsuit was filed by a former Democratic lieutenant governor and a prominent Republican attorney whom Callahan appointed as special assistant attorneys general so they could represent the state.

The two attorneys are continuing a suit that seeks access to backup e-mail tapes from the governor's office that was initially filed by special investigators selected by Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon to look into allegations that the Republican governor's office violated the state Sunshine Law by deleting e-mails.

The Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star have joined the lawsuit to pursue their own, independent requests for documents from the governor's office.

In court motions filed Monday, Blunt questioned whether Callahan was allowed to appoint two special assistant attorneys general to continue the lawsuit. The governor's attorney asserts that under the Missouri Constitution, only the state auditor can investigate compliance with the Sunshine Law, and that only the Missouri Ethics Commission can review whether elected officials are complying with the law.

Blunt's attorneys also raised concerns about the constitutional separation of powers. They argued that the possible remedies ordered by the courts would be "an improper and invasive intrusion into the authority and duties of the sitting governor and the exercise by him of the supreme executive power of the state."

In a separate motion, Blunt's attorneys asked Callahan to speed up the process by shortening the amount of pretrial discovery so that the suit can be adjudicated by the time the governor leaves office in January.

The e-mail lawsuit and document retention policies have become an issue in campaigns for statewide office.

In a series of debates this week for all the statewide offices on the ballot, the issue arose in all but the state treasurer forum. The two nominees for attorney, Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Michael Gibbons, both said Thursday that they may continue the lawsuit if elected.



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