In Missouri, the governor defending his staff's routine deletion of office emails, even as he acknowledged "e-mails often are a public record," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
After aides admitted that the office doesn't keep email "for very long, if at all," Attorney General Jay Nixon said that the policy violates the state's record-preservation law and the Sunshine Law, which provides for public access to government records.
At a separate news conference Tuesday in northern St. Louis, Nixon asserted that actions of the governor's staff appeared to be "an anathema to openness in government. This is public business, these are public records, this is what we do," declared Nixon, a Democrat who is challenging Blunt for governor in 2008.
Gov. Matt Blunt offered a breezy explanation. "I think people are trying to have a clear and manageable in-box. That's what they're trying to do." That hardly explains the deletion of emails from the office's servers.
He said, "Once requested (under the Sunshine Law), and if they exist, they're definitely a public record." Was he suggesting that emails need not be retained unless they're requested? It appears so. An official statement said:
"There is no statute or case that requires the state to retain all e-mails as a public record. E-mails can be a public record if they meet the other criteria of a public record."
The governor engaged in some name-calling, as well. He said Nixon's office has "lost all credibility on this issue when they asserted that they have never deleted e-mails in the past three years."
But Nixon has never said that. He said his office complies with the state record-retention law and the preservation requirements.