JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Screenshots of text messages show former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ staff used a message-deleting app on their state-issued phones to discuss government business with each other and people outside the governor’s office, according to a published report.
The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that it obtained copies of screenshots that Greitens’ legal team turned over to a Cole County court as part of a lawsuit over Greitens’ staff’s use of the Confide app. The lawsuit claims the governor’s staff used Confide to circumvent the state’s open records laws. Although Greitens resigned June 1, his legal team continues to try to get the lawsuit dismissed.
Greitens and his staff have acknowledged using Confide but have said it was only for logistics such as scheduling.
David Steelman, a member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators whose wife was in Greitens’ cabinet, told The Star last week that he remembers venting to a friend at a dinner about Grietens, who had been governor for less than a year at the time.
“I think I said to (his friend), ‘Who’s (Greitens) listening to?'” Steelman recalled in an interview. “And he said ‘just get on Confide and you’ll see. if you want to know who is running government, there they are right there.'”
As part of the lawsuit, the governor’s office earlier this year turned over screenshots of text messages Greitens’ staff sent on Confide, which destroyed messages after they are read. The attorneys for the plaintiffs argue Missouri residents deserve to know what happened during Greitens’ tenure to prevent a similar problem in the future.
One exchange documented in the screenshots occurred last November between Steelman and Greitens’ former deputy chief of staff, Nick Maddux. Steelman sent Maddux a text message asking for a phone call and Maddux replied, “I’m jammed up until four. Just shot you a message on Confide.”
Earlier this year, The Star reported on another screenshot showing three Greitens’ staffers discussing using Confide to share talking points on one of the governor’s policy priorities. Other screenshots show numerous staffers texting colleagues to notify them that they had sent a message using Confide, or inviting them to download the app.
“Evidence continues to pour in demonstrating the use of Confide to conduct public business in the Greitens administration,” said Mark Pedroli, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit. “Based on comments of others in and around government, I’m wondering if any public business was conducted on the record.”
In May, the governor’s office acknowledged that 20 staffers had Confide accounts during Greitens’ tenure, including Greitens. The former governor said he used Confide only to communicate with his staff about scheduling. Some of his campaign staff, Greitens’ political allies and people Greitens appointed to boards and commissions also had Confide accounts.
At a June hearing, the ex-governor’s attorneys — who were hired when Greitens was still in office — argued that text messages on Confide couldn’t be made public because they were automatically deleted.
“The Sunshine Law is designed to allow access to documents that exist,” Barbara Smith, an attorney who represents the governor’s office, said at the hearing.
Pedroli called that a dangerous legal argument that would reward Greitens for “destroying the evidence.”
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com