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Key players in the Missouri e-mail controversy

Saturday, November 15, 2008 | 8:25 p.m. CST

A look at the major players in the controversy over how the office of Gov. Matt Blunt handled e-mails.

GOV. MATT BLUNT

During the late summer of 2007, Blunt was promoting an initiative to crack down on illegal immigration, but growing disputes over his administration's public record policy soon took center stage. Blunt was nearly three years into his first administration when the firing of Scott Eckersley raised questions about whether Blunt's staff was deleting public records. Blunt is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and was Missouri secretary of state between 2001 and 2005. During that time, Blunt approved a policy that dictated how government documents should be retained. In January 2008, Gov. Blunt abruptly announced he would not seek a second term. Blunt said he wanted to spend more time with his family and said he believed he had accomplished most of his goals.

 

ED MARTIN

Martin arrived as Gov. Matt Blunt's chief of staff in September 2006. The St. Louis lawyer was an advocate for conservative causes, such as limiting abortions. Martin quickly became known as a hard-charging, bombastic adviser with a tough political style. He became involved in the open records debate after news outlets sought e-mails Martin sent to outside political groups. Martin claimed he had no obligation to save the e-mails because they weren't public records. In September 2007, he fired attorney Scott Eckersley, who claims he had challenged the administration's stance on public records. Martin said Eckersley was fired for doing personal business during work hours, viewing sexual e-mails and arriving late to work. Martin was replaced months later and now represents various political advocacy groups in Missouri.

 

SCOTT ECKERSLEY

Eckersley wasn't yet 30 years old when he took a job as deputy general counsel to Blunt, Eckersley's first job in the public sector. As a devout Mormon, Eckersley sometimes took ribbing from his younger colleagues because he avoided cursing and drinking. Eckersley became involved with the administration's debate about whether to retain e-mails. Eckersley was a loyal partisan in many ways, suggesting how the issue could be used against Blunt's political rival, Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon. But Eckersley challenged the administration's public statements defending e-mail deletions. Eckersley cited the policy Blunt approved when he was secretary of state that laid out specific rules for when and how to save e-mails. Eckersley sent several e-mails on the topic, including to Martin and Blunt's general counsel, Henry Herschel. Blunt's administration later denied that Eckersley raised concerns that the governor's office wasn't complying with document retention policies or the Sunshine Law.

 

HENRY HERSCHEL

Herschel has long served in the Jefferson City bureaucracy, taking the role of Blunt's top attorney in 2006 after stints as a lawyer in the Office of Administration and director of research for the Missouri Senate. Herschel was Eckersley's boss and had complained about Eckersley being late to work. He also asked Eckersley to research the open records policy when media outlets began to challenge it. Eckersley sent an e-mail to Herschel challenging Blunt's public statement that the office had no formal policy for retaining e-mails. Eckersley said the policy was clear. He left Blunt's administration after Eckersley's firing and is now an administrative law judge handling workers' compensation cases.

 

RICH CHRISMER

Chrismer was U.S. Sen. Jim Talent's spokesman and joined Blunt's administration as director of communications after Talent lost his re-election bid to Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2006. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Chrismer dealt with media outlets seeking information from the governor's office, and during Eckersley's time there, dealt with e-mails and other public documents. Chrismer told the media there was no law or court case requiring e-mails to be retained as public records. After Chrismer received an Eckersley e-mail outlining state open-records law, Chrismer sent an e-mail to Eckersley's boss asking that Eckersley quit sending such e-mails to him.

 


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