By Eli Yokley
— State Auditor Tom Schweich released a critical audit of the General Assembly Friday for lack of transparency in their use of official emails.
The House and Senate have long held their position that individual offices should not fall within the Sunshine Law’s record-keeping guidelines, but Schwiech’s audit found that the law is ambiguous, and urged the two chambers to err on the side of transparency.
“An e-mail policy needs to clearly define a record or specifically indicate that e-mail records are covered,” the audits read. “Without clear, specific, and adequate guidance, there may be inconsistencies in the understanding and implementation regarding records retention. Also, without archiving e-mail, either on the state or an in-house archiving system, the Senate has little assurance that applicable email will be available if needed.”
Schweich’s office made an identical statement about the House.
House Democrats released a statement Friday stating they agree with Schweich’s position about open records, and called on the chamber’s Republicans to cede from their position.
“House Democrats believe this interpretation is wholly unsupported by state law and was concocted to discourage Missourians from seeking official records to which they are entitled,” Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, said. “Despite the House majority party’s interpretation, it has long been the policy of the House Democratic Caucus to honor Sunshine Law requests for official documents held by Democratic state representatives, and we will continue to do so.”
Schwiech was critical of the House for raising the pay of its employees above the pay of other state employees. He criticized the Senate for not having a standardized timesheet program for its employees. Both chambers said they would consider Schweich’s recommendations.