Fri March 22, 2013
Open Records Problems Cited In Audits Of Missouri General Assembly
A new audit of the Missouri state House and Senate knocks both chambers for their failure to comply with portions of the state Sunshine law.
Tom Schweich, a Republican like the legislative leaders in Jefferson City, criticizes the House and Senate for not having formal written policies when it comes to the retention of emails. Both chambers are also criticized for arguing that the emails and other records of individual representatives and senators are not subject to the Sunshine Law, because, "individual Senators are not considered a 'public governmental body.'" The auditor asks both chambers to come up with email policies and an archiving system.
In their responses, both bodies make it clear how reluctant they are to implement Schweich's recommendation. The Senate says it will "consider" establishing an email policy, and the House says it's reviewing the recommendation.
The House and Senate are also equally dismissive of Schweich's requests to change the Sunshine Law to apply to individual members.
Other problems spotted by Schweich:
- Both chambers had not developed or reviewed their "in case of disaster, this is how we'd do our job" plans. The House says it waited because it was getting new technology and it made no sense to develop a plan for old equipment. The Senate said it absolutely had a contingency plan and tested it frequently.
- The Senate was criticized for its ongoing use of the Senate Administrator's Fund, a private account outside the state Treasury that's used for incidental expenses like retirement gifts and parties, and dinners during late sessions. Some of the funds come from lobbyists, which Schweich says creates conflict of interest problems. The fund is technically unconstitutional as well. The Senate argues that eliminating the fund would lead to greater expenses for the taxpayers.
- The House is criticized for giving larger pay raises to its employees than the Senate and other departments, and for having more generous leave policies. The House says it paid for the raises using savings from elsewhere.
- The Senate needs to come up with a standardized time sheet, and make sure that all time sheets have the appropriate signatures.
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann
St. Louis Public Radio News