ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–A new state audit criticizes the Missouri House and Senate for failing to retain their email correspondence — and for claiming the Sunshine Law doesn’t apply to records of individual members.
State Auditor Tom Schweich says both the House and Senate lack a formal written policy for retaining the waterfall of emails lawmakers are constantly sending — much of it relating to their official duties.
“It just means they don’t have to worry about what they say, because no reporter is going to get to look at it,” Schweich said, “and in that case, you can have communications and issues going on, that involve state government and maybe even taxpayer money that the taxpayers are never going to learn about.”
Schweich says under normal provisions of the Sunshine Law emails dealing with attorney-client privilege or whistle blowers are exempt from scrutiny. But he says the Missouri House and Senate are taking advantage of ambiguities in the law to shield all of their personal emails from public review.
“I believe that when you’re involved in professional conduct on behalf of the taxpayers, you should be as open as possible,” Schweich said, “So I would love to see that exemption eliminated.”
In other findings of the House and Senate Audit:
**The Senate was criticized for soliciting contributions from lobbyists to pay for “questionable costs.” In 2011, the Senate spent $8,689 in lobbyist-raised funds for a Senate retirement dinner and retirement gifts — “expenditures that would not be allowable for state agencies.”
**The House gave five-percent pay raises to its employees, in addition to the two percent cost of living adjustment provided to all state employees paid less than $70,000 annually. Schweich says the average salary of those receiving the total of a seven-percent raise was $28,000.
**The House was criticized for failing to track items stolen. In May 2012, three laptops and two printers, totalling $4,952 were stolen, or provided a police report or explanation of the theft.