Holden - Lack of notice about meeting unfortunate

Friday, June 14, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Bob Holden says it's "unfortunate" that state officials failed to properly notify the public about a meeting relating to bond sales against the state's tobacco settlement revenue.

At the meeting Tuesday, the Tobacco Settlement Financing Authority agreed to open applications for a financial adviser, but the media were not notified of the meeting until the results were announced. Holden, a member of the authority, was in Canada when the meeting occurred.

"It was unfortunate that greater notice was not given on that meeting, but there is no effort not to have full disclosure on this discussion," Holden told reporters Thursday after returning from the trip.

"We needed to have that meeting while I was gone. I wish the media had known about it and been given better notice," Holden added.

A decision was made Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell and Attorney General Jay Nixon to hold a meeting without the required 24-hour notice under Missouri's so-called Sunshine Law. Both cited a portion of the law that allows meeting with less notice if there is "good cause."

While it did not notify the media, the Office of Administration said it did post a meeting notice outside its Capitol door a few hours before the meeting.

When asked whether better advance notice would have been given if he had been in the state, Holden said quietly: "I would hope so." Holden, Maxwell and Nixon are the only voting members of the authority. Under the Missouri Constitution, the lieutenant governor acts as the state's chief executive when a governor is "effectively absent."

Under the tobacco law, Missouri can sell bonds against a maximum of 30 percent of the $4.5 billion it expects to receive over 25 years from the legal settlement with big tobacco companies.

Officials hope to use $50 million to help shore up Missouri's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

State officials are trying to move quickly on the bond issue, signed into law last week, in order for the bonds to be considered tax exempt under Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

The deadline to acquire that status is July 29.

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