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United for Missouri sues Office of Administration over public records request

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Office of Administration (OA) is facing a second lawsuit, this time from United for Missouri (UFM), for providing unredacted records to one organization but not another.

On Wednesday, the conservative-leaning nonprofit filed the legal challenge in Cole County alleging OA knowingly violated Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The case has been assigned to Cole County Judge Daniel Green. 

Green is also the judge assigned to a similar lawsuit filed last month by the Show-Me Institute against OA

Both lawsuits center around information the state provided to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that was redacted when given to other organizations. 

Per a labor contract, OA “will provide the union with a current list of active bargaining unit employees” once each quarter, along with information for each employee including names, payments, work addresses, home addresses, and mailing addresses.” The contract, which is still in effect, was signed in May 2015, with the state — seven departments and several other entities — and AFSCME Council 72.

On Feb. 6, Ryan Johnson, a plaintiff in the case, sent an open records request to OA, requesting: “A copy of each ‘list of active bargaining unit employees’ sent to AFSCME Council 72 in 2015, 2016 and 2018…”

The following day, Kelly Hopper, legal counsel for OA, responded with the records, noting “individually identifiable personnel information” had been “redacted.” 

On Feb. 19, Marc Ellinger, on behalf of UFM and UFM CEO Carl Bearden, sent an open records request to OA, seeking: “The name, work and home addresses of each employee from the ‘list of active bargaining unit employees’ sent to AFSCME Council 72 in 2016, 2017 and 2018…”

Hopper responded with the records, noting they “have been redacted to remove individually identifiable personnel information.”

The lawsuit alleged the list provided to the unions is now “public record” and must be released to anyone requesting it. UFM is seeking to force the state, through the legal challenge, to turn over the information. 

“The state has an obligation and statutory duty to be transparent with citizens,” Bearden said in a statement. “Citizens have the right to request and access information outlined in state statute. The state must deliver the requested information. They have failed to do so on several accounts.”

“OA does not dispute releasing employee information to the unions. They do ignore the plain meaning and intent of the sunshine law that the data released to one private party must be made available to all parties. They are withholding public records from citizens of the state,” he continued.

OA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.