It likely will be late September or early October before Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem rules on the Sunshine Law suit challenging the way State Auditor Nicole Galloway responded to public information requests.
Among its provisions, the Sunshine Law, in Chapter 610 of Missouri's Revised Statutes, states "all public records of public governmental bodies shall be open to the public for inspection and copying."
The law also provides procedures that state and local governments are to follow when any member of the public makes a request to review those records.
In its lawsuit, the Missouri Alliance for Freedom says Galloway and other members of the auditor's staff deleted text messages from their state-provided cellphones after the MAF asked to see those messages, in violation of the Sunshine Law.
"From our perspective, we have these prima facia violations established on non-production (of requested records) and delay (in providing records)," Kansas City attorney Ed Greim, representing the MAF, told Beetem during his closing argument Tuesday morning.
Greim reminded Beetem that MAF's evidence included its first, May 26, 2017, request for records — and that request's list of 14 categories of communications MAF wanted to see, "including texts."
But Galloway's chief litigation counsel, Joel Anderson, reminded Beetem the Missouri Alliance for Freedom actually made three Sunshine requests within a month, with "extremely broad categories of records they were requesting," and "the fact that they were all being processed at the same time."
He added: "This is a case of using the Sunshine Law essentially to request the world and let's see if we can find a grain of sand."
And in this case, he argued, MAF really wanted text messages but put that information near the bottom of its list.
Greim 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."
He said MAF was given screen-shots of some text messages, as well as 45,000 pages of emails and other communications.
After both sides made their closing arguments, Beetem asked them to provide their post-trial briefs within 30 days.
And he asked them to answer specific questions raised during the trial.
Beetem hears evidence in lawsuit challenging Galloway Sunshine Law complianceRead more
Greim said part of his evidence was based on the Missouri Supreme Court's 1999 ruling in the case involving then-Cole County Sheriff John Hemeyer and KRCG-TV.
KRCG had asked for a copy of a video recording made in 1997, in the old Cole County Jail, when a state lawmaker was being booked after being arrested for drunk driving.
Hemeyer argued the tape — which was held for four to six days before it was re-used — wasn't a public record, but the Supreme Court said it was a public record as defined by the state law, and it was retained by the sheriff, if only for a few days.
But part of the issue for the auditor's office in the MAF case is their use of iPhones with settings that automatically erased messages after 30 days, unless the settings were changed.
Tuesday's testimony included Nathan Little of Gillware Forensics in Madison, Wisconsin, who explained it's virtually impossible to recover messages that have been deleted, manually or automatically.
Beetem asked both sides to show how the Hemeyer case would apply to the current case.