Missouri state auditor and Democratic candidate for governor Nicole Galloway sent letters to five state-level Republican politicians Monday requesting support for legislation banning the use of self-deleting messaging apps.
Self-deleting apps delete communication shortly after it is viewed. These apps serve as a loophole to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, which requires full transparency for the state government, except in extraordinary circumstances. The Sunshine law covers communications between government officials, and self-deleting apps such as Confide, Telegram and Wickr, are viewed by Galloway as a way to destroy official records.
The apps have gained attention in Missouri due to their use by former Gov. Eric Greitens. He used the app Confide to communicate with aides. While a lawsuit against Greitens was largely dismissed in July, litigation continues and Missouri taxpayers have paid over $366,000 for his legal defense.
There are six executive branch elected officials at the state level in Missouri, and Galloway is the lone Democrat. She addressed letters to the other five, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, all Republicans.
In the letter, she argues that any communication referencing public business or official duties is public record and must be retained, citing the state and local records law. Since communications on these apps are not capable of being preserved, she argues that internal policies should be changed, and legislation should be supported. She notes in the letters that she has already changed the policies of her own office regarding electronic communications to reflect this position.
When asked about the use of the apps, a representative from Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe’s office said, “We don’t do it, have no intention of doing it. If someone wanted to codify that, then that’s not problematic from our perspective.”
Mary Compton, spokeswoman for the Treasuer’s Office, said in an email to the Missourian that “the Treasurer and his staff do not use self-deleting messaging apps like Confide. Treasurer (Scott) Fitzpatrick is a proponent of government transparency.”
In the most recent legislative session, a bill was passed in the House of Representatives that prohibited the use of self-destructing messaging technology in public business, but it died in the Senate.
In May, the State Records Commission approved a new set of guidelines establishing that all records must be preserved. Galloway as auditor, as well as the secretary of state and attorney general, are three of the nine commission members. On Oct. 2, Galloway sent a letter containing these guidelines to local governments around the state, but they do not hold the force of law — thus the push for legislation. The letter may have had some effect, as St. Louis County is currently considering banning the use of these apps for its public officials.
The offices of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Treasurer could not be reached for comment Monday.
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