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Cole County judge rebukes Attorney General’s Office for open records law violations

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley
KMIZ
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

A Cole County judge has ruled that the Missouri Attorney General's Office under now-U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley "knowingly and purposefully" violated state open records laws.

Judge Jon Beetem also fined the AG's office $12,000 for the actions of staff members under Hawley's direction in 2017 and 2018, when he was running for a Senate seat.

In doing so, Beetem ruled in favor of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which sued in 2019 after the attorney general's office failed to provide documents that included staff emails sent from non-government addresses. The Kansas City Star published a story after those requests which relied on some of those emails.

The AG's office eventually produced the documents after an investigation by the Secretary of State's Office.

Beetem said neither of the main arguments made by the attorney general -- that it was working on the document request when the lawsuit was filed and that it could withhold the records under an exemption for litigation -- justified a violation of state open records law.

Beetem heard arguments in the case in May.

In the ruling, Beetem also ordered the AG's office to pay the plaintiff's attorney's fees.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics
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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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