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Galloway requests legal opinion on Sunshine Law exceptions

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s state auditor is seeking the legal opinion of the attorney general on redaction of information from open records requests based on the First Amendment.

In her official capacity, Nicole Galloway filed a formal request on whether her office should redact information of an identifying nature from requests under the Sunshine Law based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Most recently, reports revealed Governor Parson’s office used the First Amendment to withhold information requested under the Sunshine Law,” Galloway said in a statement. “This is why I have requested clarification from the Attorney General as to whether these actions were lawful. There should be no confusion on how the Sunshine Law is applied.”

The request comes after reports saying the Office of the Governor redacted personal information from requests based on the First Amendment.

The auditor’s office does not close 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.”

“This is yet another lame partisan political attempt by the State Auditor. The Auditor has zero credibility when it comes to properly handling government records, given the fact that she’s admitted to using auto-delete functions to destroy text messages on a state cell phone,” said Steele Shippy, the communications director for Parson. “The Governor’s office will continue to protect the personal information of Missourians, as the law allows for under both the First Amendment and Missouri’s Sunshine Law.”

A spokesperson with the attorney general’s office said officials are reviewing the request and will decide on further steps.

“The Attorney General is dedicated to protecting, defending, and enforcing the Sunshine Law, and he works every day to ensure transparency at all levels of government,” Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for the attorney general, said.

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.