Politics

Parson told not to use First Amendment to redact information

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - (AP) The Missouri attorney general's office says Gov. Mike Parson should stop using the First Amendment to justify withholding some public information.

Parson's office has cited the First Amendment when refusing to release information such as phone numbers, addresses and emails of private citizens who contacted the governor's office.

The Kansas City Star reports Deputy Attorney General Justin Smith wrote in a letter to Parson Thursday that courts have allowed redactions in specific cases but "not as a blanket approach."

State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democratic candidate for governor, asked Attorney General Eric Schmitt in May for an opinion on whether Parson's approach violated the open records law.

Parson's spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said in a statement Friday the governor's actions were intended to protect people from possible harassment. She said previous administrations had redacted the same information.

Statement from Auditor Nicole Galloway's Office

State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released the following statement in response to a determination made by the Attorney General's Office related to Sunshine Law exemptions as claimed by Gov. Parson's Office. This spring, reports revealed that Gov. Parson's office failed to disclose information in response to Sunshine Law requests, citing the First Amendment.

"The Attorney General's letter confirms Gov. Parson was wrong to withhold information from the public. Nonpartisan advocates for government transparency and legal experts all agree the Governor's actions were unlawful.    

"I will continue to fight for transparency and openness at all levels of Missouri government.  Missourians deserve nothing less."  

In a May 7 request, Auditor Galloway asked for legal clarification on whether it is appropriate to redact information related to individuals conducting business with, lobbying or attempting to influence a government entity. The Attorney General's Office has since advised that practice is not appropriate. 

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