Nixon: E-mails are public records

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- Attorney General Jay Nixon's office says government e-mails are public records and must be preserved -- a contrast with Gov. Matt Blunt's staff members, who delete some e-mails they do not consider public records.

James Klahr, the attorney general's lead Sunshine Law attorney, sent a message Monday to Missouri media saying: "There should be no debate -- e-mail communications are public records."

Klahr's message contained an Internet link to a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the e-mail purging in Blunt's office.

"Recent events and media accounts have triggered an unnecessary debate over whether e-mails are considered public records and subject to Missouri's open records laws," said Klahr, adding that the attorney general's office has consistently advised people that government e-mails are public records.

Blunt denied Tuesday that his staff members were trying to cover anything up by deleting e-mails. He said his staff members had no written policy dictating which e-mails should be deleted or saved.

A provision of state law says many correspondences and interoffice memos from state officials must be saved for up to three years.

E-mails are preserved by some other state officials, including Republican Treasurer Sarah Steelman, Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and Democratic Auditor Susan Montee. Steelman, for example, has an information technology section to preserve records for the office, including e-mails.

Nixon, a Democrat, is running for governor against Blunt, a Republican.

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