Missouri Press Magazine E Edition Page 2

Missouri Press News, April 2014 www.mopress.com public bodies have the responsibility and must bear the cost of reviewing records for exempt content. These reforms are important not only because the Sunshine Law is a crucial tool for newsgathering, but also because the public - our read- ers - deserves access to public documents that is as unfettered as possible. D-Day Veteran at Convention The MPA staff has put together excellent programs for the Sept. 10- 12 convention. One of the highlights will occur Saturday morning be- fore the Better Newspaper Contest Awards Lun- cheon, when 90-year-old Morley Piper, a veteran of New Eng- land news- papers, will talk about his D-Day experiences on Omaha Beach 71 years ago. If you plan to attend the awards lun- cheon, you should arrive early for the 10:30 a.m. program. It promises to be unforget- table. See you at the convention! A Tribune report last month de- scribed a tug of war for emails among supporters of opposing Re- publican candidates for attorney general in 2016. At the center of the contest is the University of Missouri, the employer of Josh Hawley, a fac- ulty member with the MU School of Law, who wants to be Missouri at- torney general. Hawley's primary opponent is Mis- souri Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Colum- bia. Allies of Schaefer, suspecting Hawley received preferential treat- ment by his employer, the state uni- versity, requested all of the prof's MU email correspondence during a certain period. A counter request by Hawley's supporters, who suspect Schaefer of attempting to improperly influence university officials, made for an interesting report by the Tri- bune 's Rudi Keller. The university's response was in- structive. A UM legal adviser inter- prets the Sunshine Law as exempt- ing personal email correspondence even if it is created and retained on a public governmental body's system. Such an exemption does not exist in the law, says MPA's expert Jean Maneke. Meanwhile, the Schaefer ally who requested the emails also asked for additional documents that include Hawley's expense records and any complaints lodged against the MU professor. The university says it has identified 3,500 documents respon- sive to the request and has charged the requestor $5,000 so far. Two observations that deserve thought by MPA members as the 2016 election season approaches: The Missouri Open Meetings and Records law needs clarity on the is- sue of emails and other electronic correspondence such as text mes- sages. A lawsuit could possibly settle the question of personal emails, but that would be an expensive and unneces- sarily adversarial solution. An opin- ion by the Missouri attorney general might be helpful, but don't hold your breath. A legislative mandate would remove the doubt. And while it's at it, the legislature should look at the cost of acquir- ing public records. For example, is $5,000 a reasonable amount to charge for documents that are sup- posed to be open and available to the public? That openness - trans- parency - is meant to allow the pub- lic to achieve a greater understand- ing of the workings of government as well as to perform an important watchdog role. Placing a financial barrier across access to such docu- ments makes a sham of the law. It doesn't have to work that way. Several states offer free access to public documents with a generous limit on copies. That would more closely represent real transparency. Absent that, the legislature could help by truly defining reasonable costs, including a clarification that Missouri Open Meetings and Records law needs clarity DIRECTORS: Richard Gard, Past MPA President, Chicago, Ill. Dennis Ellsworth, St. Joseph News-Press Donna Bischoff, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jack Miles, The Daily Star-Journal, Warrensburg Joe Spaar, The Odessan Trevor Vernon, Eldon Advertiser Jeff Schrag, Springfield Daily Events Carol Stark, The Joplin Globe James White, Benton County Enterprise, Warsaw NNA REPRESENTATIVE: Tianna Brooks, Mountain View Standard News PRESIDENT: Jim Robertson, Columbia Daily Tribune FIRST VICE PRESIDENT: Dennis Warden, Owensville, Gasconade County Republican SECOND VICE PRESIDENT: Bill Miller, Jr., Washington Missourian SECRETARY: Jacob Brower, Monett Times/Cassville Democrat TREASURER: Paul Berry, Springfield News-Leader EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Doug Crews ADVERTISING DIRECTOR: Mark Nienhueser EDITOR: Bryan E. Jones MISSOURI PRESS NEWS (ISSN 00266671) is published every month for $15 per year by the Missouri Press Association, Inc., 802 Locust St., Columbia, MO 65201-4888; phone (573) 449-4167; fax (573) 874-5894; e-mail dcrews@socket.net; website www.mopress.com. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, MO 65201-4888. (USPS No. 355620). POSTMASTER: Please send changes of address to Missouri Press Association, 802 Locust St., Columbia, MO 65201-4888. Access to email, text messages; definition of 'reasonable cost' at issue 'Placing a inancial barrier across access to such documents makes a sham of the law. It doesn't have to work that way.'

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