JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway is under fire this week as a judge weighs the arguments in a lawsuit alleging that Galloway allowed for the deleting of text messages in an open records request.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem heard closing arguments in the case filed by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom against the Democrat on Tuesday.
At issue is a 2017 request from the Alliance for Freedom regarding records and Galloway looking into the Department of Revenue and its issuing of state income tax refunds. Responding to the request, Galloway’s office gave screenshots of text messages and some 45,000 pages of email and communications, but the Alliance for Freedom said there should have been more texts in the documents they received.
In court on Tuesday, the attorney representing the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, Ed Greim, argued that the Auditor’s Office had violated its own policies about preserving records by allowing texts to be deleted.
The auditor’s counsel, Joel Anderson, argued that they have received at least one request for texts, which they complied with, and also explained that part of the alleged issue was the Office’s use of iPhones with a setting that automatically deletes messages after 30 days, unless changed.
Earlier in the year, Attorney General Josh Hawley’s investigators looked into the allegations after receiving a formal complaint from the MAF, but their report stated that the Auditor’s Office did not break the Sunshine Law with the deletion of text messages, stating that the messages were “transitory” in nature, such as setting dates for meetings and phone calls, and are not required to be retained.
Judge Beetem is not expected to issue a ruling in the matter until September or October, but in the meantime, as Galloway looks to retain her seat in the coming election, her opponents have taken this lawsuit and used it to question Galloway’s abilities to serve as State Auditor.
In an email sent out Tuesday, the Missouri GOP said that Galloway claims to be a fighter for transparency, but the lawsuit proves otherwise.
“Nicole Galloway permitted text messages to be deleted from both her government issued phone and the phones of several staff members, which is alarming. The fact that she has not been forthcoming about the deleted phone records is even more alarming, especially from someone who’s supposed to be the state’s transparency watchdog,” said Chris Nuelle, spokesperson for the Missouri Republican Party. “Missourians have a right to know what Galloway was sending and receiving on her government issued phone, especially since taxpayers are on the hook for her phone bill. For someone who preaches transparency, the fact that Galloway is so resistant to turning over these records begs the question: what could she be hiding?”
Live look at Nicole Galloway, who supposedly fights for transparency (just not in her own office), deleting text messages from her government issued, taxpayer-funded phone #MOLeg #MOAud pic.twitter.com/ZtY2mW7Boe
— Missouri GOP (@MissouriGOP) August 29, 2018
Nicole Galloway advocates for transparency, but she deleted government records.
— Missouri GOP (@MissouriGOP) August 28, 2018
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.