JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s lone Democratic statewide office holder did not knowingly violate the state’s open record laws, a circuit court judge has determined.
On Monday, Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ruled in favor of State Auditor Nicole Galloway. In a 24-page judgment, Beetem wrote that the group that brought the lawsuit failed to “meet its burden of proving either a knowing or purposeful violation of the Sunshine Law, assuming that there has been a showing of a violation of the Sunshine Law at all.”
In July 2017, Missouri Alliance for Freedom filed a lawsuit against Galloway alleging that she violated the Sunshine Law.
At issue is a May 2017 request from the Alliance for Freedom for records regarding 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 47,000 pages of email and communications, but the Alliance for Freedom said there should have been more texts in the documents they received.
But Beetem ruled against the allegations over the text messages stating, “Because the form of the records requested did not exist, the [state auditor’s office] did not violate the Sunshine Law [by failing to produce them.]
He also noted that the request for all communication of the State Auditor for a period of over two years was not reasonably specific. While this lack of specificity may not excuse an agency from acting on the request, the fact that the auditor’s office did not secure one particular instance of communications data (text messages) within 30 days does not violate the Sunshine Law, according to Beetem.
Beetem ruled in favor of Galloway on all counts alleged by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom.
“This lawsuit was intended to have a chilling effect on my efforts to investigate fraud and mismanagement at all levels of government,” Galloway said following the ruling. “Those tactics did not succeed. Today’s ruling is straightforward: my office has not violated the Sunshine Law. I remain committed to pursuing answers on behalf of taxpayers.”
Read Beetem’s full ruling below:
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at email@example.com.