Judge OKs legal settlement for Mo. gov.’s e-mails

By DAVID A. LIEB

A judge has approved a legal settlement that requires outgoing Gov. Matt Blunt to hand over thousands of e-mails to investigators, but leaves unresolved the question of whether Blunt’s office violated public records laws.

Under the deal, Blunt’s office must provide 60,000 pages of e-mail documents from the accounts of the outgoing Republican governor and five staffers from a three-month period in 2007. The settlement includes no specific assertion of wrongdoing by Blunt nor any specific exoneration.

A bipartisan pair of court-appointed assistant attorneys general said they believe Blunt’s office broke Missouri law by deleting the e-mails that should have been saved as public records.

But former Democratic Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and Republican attorney Louis Leonatti both said it would have been almost impossible to prove Blunt’s office committed a knowing and purposeful violation, which are required elements under Missouri law for imposing civil fines.

That’s because they said Blunt and his top deputies were relying on in-house legal advice _ albeit wrong _ when they asserted in 2007 that e-mails were not public records and did not have to be kept.

Leonatti said there was nothing to indicate any criminal conduct occurred, and he praised Blunt’s former legal counsel, Henry Herschel, for eventually correcting his wrong interpretation of public records laws.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon _ who will succeed Blunt as governor Jan. 12 _ wasted more than $600,000 of taxpayer money by initiating the investigation ‘with nothing to show for it but false accusations.’

The legal settlement seeks to end an e-mail controversy that has dogged Blunt for the final year-and-a-half of his term. The settlement gives investigators until Jan. 26 to complete a report on their findings, and then gives Blunt until Jan. 30 to attach a response before the report is publicly released.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: