Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem is scheduled to hear more evidence today, as a group seeks a court order saying State Auditor Nicole Galloway deleted text messages in violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law.
The Missouri Alliance for Freedom, or MAF, described itself in the lawsuit as a not-for-profit group that "accomplishes its purpose in part by shedding light on government activities through public records requests."
MAF argued Galloway and others in her office failed to turn over text messages from the auditor's state-issued iPhone, and delayed long enough that those messages automatically were erased by the phone after 30 days.
The lawsuit was originally filed in May 2017, then amended last March.
Galloway contends MAF — which has political ties to conservatives, including former Gov. Eric Greitens — filed the lawsuit after Galloway last year subpoenaed state Revenue records on its process for making income tax refunds because, Galloway had said, the department didn't respond to previous requests for that information.
"This is a case about a constitutional officer who touts itself as not just an expert on the Sunshine Law, but as a guardian of the Missouri Sunshine law," Kansas City lawyer Eddie Greim, representing MAF, told Beetem during his opening statement Monday.
"You'll see evidence (in this case) that the auditor, actually just months before the events in this case transpired, audited hundreds of entities for their compliance with the law, and severely criticized the efforts they took to follow the Sunshine Law."
Missouri's Open Meetings/Open Records law requires "public governmental bodies" to keep their records open to the public, including allowing members of the public to view and copy most of those records.
In his opening statement Monday morning, Greim argued that Paul Harper, a lawyer on Galloway's staff, saved his own text messages when MAF filed its first Sunshine request in April 2017 — but that he didn't make sure Galloway knew about the request or made sure her iPhone's text files also were saved.
"We want to be very clear — this case is about what Paul Harper knew," Greim told Beetem. "He knew that texts (messages) were required to be produced under the Sunshine Law."
Beetem ruled in June the case only could be about messages available to the public, and not messages that involved the legally confidential part of the state auditor's work.