Cole County Judge Jon Beetem has ruled on two Sunshine Law cases — one a full judgment on access to information related to a labor contract and the other a partial judgment on a Missouri House of Representatives rule to keep certain information confidential.
Beetem issued the full judgment Monday in favor of the Missouri Office of Administration in the first open records case.
In that case, plaintiffs including United for Missouri — a nonprofit that describes itself as "committed to educating and mobilizing citizens about the impact of limited government and economic policy on the state, and the impact of the federal government exceeding its Constitutional limits on achieving growth, opportunity and prosperity" — sued OA to try to access information they said the state had shared unredacted with a labor union.
That information included portions of employees' names, as well as their work location and salary information — withheld in responses to open records requests.
Beetem ruled it was not a violation of the state's open records Sunshine Law to withhold prefixes and suffixes to employees' names, as those are "not part of their names and need not be disclosed."
The court interpreted "position" to refer to job title, not location. "Knowing someone's name, job title and job location could likely allow one to determine an employee's address, an individually identifiable fact, which is exempted from disclosure."
Beetem also ruled "salaries" means "the total pay rate and what component is in addition to base pay," so "the basis and the differential pay rates are not salaries and need not be disclosed."
In a different case, Beetem also ordered Monday that the first count of a lawsuit by the Sunshine and Government Accountability Project against the Missouri House was dismissed.
The Sunshine Project filed the lawsuit last year against the House, the House's chief clerk and custodian of records Dana Miller, former state Rep. Jean Evans and up to 10-20 unnamed "elected representatives and other persons who defied and/or acted in concert to defy the Missouri Constitution and its related open records and Sunshine laws," according to the suit's petition for injunctive and declaratory relief.
At issue is House Rule 127, which states: "Members may keep constituent case files, and records of the caucus of the majority or minority party of the House that contain caucus strategy, confidential. Constituent case files include any correspondence, written or electronic, between a member and a constituent, or between a member and any other party pertaining to a constituent's grievance, a question of eligibility for any benefit as it relates to a particular constituent, or any issue regarding a constituent's request for assistance."
The Sunshine Project argued the rule violated the Missouri Constitution's section on legislative records, which states legislative records are public. "Legislative records include, but are not limited to, all records, in whatever form or format, of the official acts of the general assembly, of the official acts of legislative committees, of the official acts of members of the general assembly, of individual legislators, their employees and staff, of the conduct of legislative business and all records that are created, stored or distributed through legislative branch facilities, equipment or mechanisms, including electronic."
Beetem dismissed the count of the lawsuits that argued House Rule 127 is unconstitutional and that email and postal addresses of emails sent to Evans could not be redacted out of a "constitutional expectation of privacy to personal information."
That dismissal left the Sunshine Project with 30 days to amend its pleadings and demonstrate standing, otherwise it will face dismissal with prejudice.
Beetem, however, denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit's second count — that there had been a violation of the Sunshine Law.
The case is set to be reviewed in early February 2021.