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State auditor, attorney general quibble over response time for legal opinion

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s state auditor is blasting the attorney general for the length of time it has taken him to issue a legal opinion. 

This week passed the three month mark since Democrat Nicole Galloway — who is preparing to launch a gubernatorial bid — filed a formal request on whether her office should follow the governor’s in redacting information from open records requests based on the First Amendment. 

As of Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt had not issued a legal opinion on Galloway’s request. 

“The Attorney General is charged with enforcing the Sunshine Law. I would expect that he would give an opinion as to whether it is appropriate to redact the information of those attempting to conduct business with or lobby a government entity. Missourians deserve to know who is influencing their government,” Galloway said in a statement Wednesday. 

But a spokesman for the attorney general pushed back.

“As the initial letter to the auditor stated, the Attorney General’s Office works on routine opinion requests in the order in which they’re received. A certain request does not take precedent over others that came before it. We do everything in our power to address opinion requests in a timely fashion, and we will continue to do so,” Chris Nuelle, press secretary for Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said.

The issue stems from reports indicating the Office of the Governor redacted personal information from requests based on the First Amendment.

The auditor’s office does not redact information based on an exception to the Sunshine Law found in the First Amendment. But with the use of the exemption by a state office, according to the request, the auditor’s office is looking “to ensure that it is properly complying with the law.”

Based on the information available on the attorney general’s webpage, the last two formal opinions issued — outside of reviewing initiative petitions and ballot language — were in February 2019 and April 2013. One was on the request of Missouri Ethics Commission Executive Director Liz Ziegler and the other was a request from then-Sen. Brian Munzlinger.