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Those of us who support government transparency and oppose government waste got a one-two punch in the gut with recent news of taxpayer-funded legal expenses stemming from the Gov. Eric Greitens administration.

The Kansas City Star reported the governor's office has spent $340,000 so far on private attorneys to defend the state in a lawsuit over former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' use of the self-destructing text message app Confide.

Most of it was spent by the governor's office, and about $161,000 of it came after fellow Republican Mike Parson became governor following Greitens' resignation in June 2018, the Star reported. (Parson's office essentially has said it inherited the mess.)

A September state audit found taxpayers had spent more than $200,000 before Greitens resigned to defend him in a 2017 lawsuit alleging Greitens' office used the Confide app to avoid being subjected to Missouri's open records laws.

The news is disheartening for several reasons:

The amount of the money. While it might amount to a drop in the bucket of the state's overall budget, it's enough to fund worthy programs, or at least parts of them, that have gone unfunded.

The fact taxpayer money essentially was going to defend government's ability to operate in secrecy. If you're a regular reader of the Opinion page, you know we're not fans of the Confide app. A government of the people must operate in the open, and Greitens' use of the Confide app was intended to do just the opposite.

A judge has thrown out most of a lawsuit challenging the use of the Confide app, ruling the app doesn't create government records that can be retained. The litigation is ongoing.

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, we continue to believe the use of such apps skirt the intent — if not the letter — of the state's open meeting law, known as the Sunshine Law.

The law needs to be updated to reflect newer forms of technology. We hope lawmakers make that a priority during the upcoming 2020 session.

News Tribune

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