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UPDATE: Investigators looking into Blunt's e-mail practices miss deadline

Special investigators looking into the e-mail practices of former Gov. Matt Blunt's office missed a court deadline to report their findings to a law firm representing Blunt.
Monday, January 26, 2009 | 2:38 p.m. CST; updated 3:30 p.m. CST, Monday, January 26, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Special investigators looking into the e-mail practices of former Gov. Matt Blunt's office have missed a court deadline to report their findings.

A settlement approved earlier this month called for investigators to submit a report by 10 a.m. Monday to a Springfield law firm representing Blunt. That did not happen.

Instead, a bipartisan pair of court-appointed attorneys asked a Cole County judge for a one-week extension on the report. But Blunt's attorneys have opposed that. It was unclear when — or whether — the report will be filed.

The investigators have been working since fall 2007 on behalf of the attorney general's office to determine whether Blunt's office improperly deleted some e-mails in violation of public records laws.

Blunt's term as governor ended Jan. 12. He was succeeded by Gov. Jay Nixon, who had initiated the investigation as attorney general.

Under a legal settlement, Blunt's office provided investigators roughly 60,000 pages of e-mail documents, most of which already had been given to a media consortium in November under a separate settlement. The arrangement called for the investigators' report due Monday to be kept confidential until Blunt had a chance to attach a response, which is due Friday.

In a written motion to delay the report until Feb. 2, attorney Louis Leonatti said the investigators wanted lawyers to review a draft of the report before submitting it, but Leonatti was unable to do so last week because of a separate federal court trial.

In telephone interviews Monday, Leonatti and his partner on the case — former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell — said there were additional reasons why the report was delayed. Maxwell said the investigators experienced some confusion in trying wrap up interviews with former members of Blunt's staff.

Also contributing to the delay is uncertainty over whether Nixon's successor, new Attorney General Chris Koster, has authorized the special investigators to continue their work or whether their power as appointed attorney general's investigators ended when Nixon left the office, Maxwell said. If they lack the powers of the attorney general's office, the investigators are concerned about issuing a report that could open them to personal liability, Maxwell said.

Attorney general spokesman Travis Ford said Monday that Koster has issued no instructions to the investigators, because he said the Jan. 5 court order approving the settlement indicated the investigators now are under the oversight of Leonatti and Maxwell.

Blunt's attorney, former Supreme Court Judge John Holstein, said he opposes delaying the report because "we're trying to get this case put behind us."

"We've done everything we were required to do. We've turned over everything we had agreed to turn over," Holstein said.

 


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