Gov. Blunt's office sought to destroy email records, suit says | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Blunt's office sought to destroy email records, suit says

May 6, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The lawsuit, filed in Cole County, claims that either Blunt or one of his top deputies or someone acting on their behalf suggested to Commission of Administration Rich AuBuchon "that it would be in everyone's best interest" to tape over the files containing backups of emails that had been sought by the Associated Press.

Then, according to the suit, AuBuchon told Dan Ross, the chief information officer that "there was concern at a higher level" about the emails. Ross, in turn, asked two computer supervisors to put the tapes in line to be taped over. Both supervisors refused, according to the lawsuit.

The First Amendment Center carries the AP story on the lawsuit and links to previous developments in the email scandal. The scandal began last fall when Blunt aide Scott Eckersley was fired. He claimed he was fired because he had warned against deleting the emails, an allegation that Blunt's office denied.

The current lawsuit was filed by an investigative team appointed by Attorney General Jay Nixon. Nixon maintained the team would be independent of politics. The team's lawyer is Chet Pleban, a St. Louis attorney with a take-no-prisoners reputation.

Last fall, after Eckersley's dismissal, the AP filed a Sunshine Act request for the emails in question. As a result, backup tapes were set aside while the AP's request was under consideration. It is those backup tapes that Pleban claims were to be overwritten.

The governor has been represented by John Holstein, formerly a Missouri Supreme Court judge. Holstein has questioned whether the attorney general had the authority to appoint the investigative team. The governor's office also has demanded $540,000 to copy the emails requested.

The suit filed by Pleban seeks to enjoin the governor or anyone acting in his behalf from accessing the tapes and it seeks copies of the tapes without payment. The KC Star's Prime Buzz has a long backgrounder on the email case.