Hawley wants penalties for officials violating records laws
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Monday called on lawmakers to pass a law to create penalties for public officials or government agencies that violate record-retention laws by deleting records, a move that comes as Hawley’s office is reviewing possible violations by fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and some of his staff.
Hawley’s office is looking into a report by the Kansas City Star that Greitens and some of his top staffers have accounts with the Confide app that are linked to their personal cell phones. The app deletes messages after they’re read and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages.
Hawley on Monday said the inquiry is ongoing but did not give any further details.
During a press conference in his Capitol office, Greitens told reporters that his office is “cooperating fully” with the inquiry.
“We have complete confidence in our policies and procedures,” Greitens said. “As I’ve said many times, we follow the law.”
Hawley said he wants lawmakers to make record-retention violations punishable by at most a year in prison, up to a $2,000 fine or both.
“It has become abundantly clear, certainly to this office, that we need to take steps to strengthen the enforcement of the Sunshine law,” Hawley said.
The attorney general’s office can’t issue subpoenas to government agencies or public officials to get information for inquiries on possible records-law violations, and Hawley said that means the office now relies on cooperation from the agencies or people under investigation.
Hawley is also asking lawmakers to change that.
Another proposal Hawley is pitching is to create a separate division in the attorney general’s office dedicated to investigating records-law complaints.
Some lawmakers have also asked Hawley to investigate allegations that Greitens took a photograph of a woman he had an affair with in 2015 and threatened to release it if she spoke about their relationship, which Greitens has repeatedly denied.
Hawley said again on Monday that’s outside his authority as attorney general unless the local prosecutor who launched an investigation asks for help.