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Judge hears closing arguments in Galloway Sunshine suit

August 29, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge is weighing arguments in a lawsuit alleging that Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway allowed text messages to be deleted in the face of an open records request.

Closing arguments were made Tuesday in the lawsuit that pits Galloway, a Democrat who’s running for re-election, against the conservative nonprofit Missouri Alliance for Freedom. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem isn’t expected to rule until late September or early October, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported.

The Alliance for Freedom filed a request in May 2017 for a broad swath of records relating to Galloway’s scrutiny of the Department of Revenue regarding state income tax refunds. Two other requests for records from Galloway’s office followed, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Joel Anderson, Galloway’s chief litigation counsel, said the nonprofit was given screenshots of some text messages, as well as 45,000 pages of emails and other communications. But the Missouri Alliance for Freedom said it should have received more texts.

Part of the issue for the auditor’s office was their use of iPhones with settings that automatically erased messages after 30 days, unless the settings were changed.

Ed Greim, an attorney representing the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, said the evidence showed Galloway’s office violated its own policies about preserving records when it allowed the text messages to be deleted from the various phones in the office.

“They are bound to follow those policies in this case,” he said.

Anderson countered: “The state auditor’s office has received at least one, I think, request for text messages specifically, and people got those text messages.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley weighed in on the issue earlier this year after the Missouri Alliance for Freedom filed a formal complaint. Hawley’s investigators reported that Galloway didn’t break the Sunshine Law by deleting text messages.

Hawley’s report said that because these messages are “transitory” — regarding logistics about audits, meetings and phone calls — they were not required to be retained.

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Information from: Jefferson City News Tribune, http://www.newstribune.com

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